[Federal Register: January 22, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 14)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 3064-3094]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



Fish and Wildlife Service

50 CFR Part 17

RIN 1018-AT44

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed 
Designation of Critical Habitat for the Santa Barbara County Distinct 
Population Segment of the California Tiger Salamander

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.

ACTION: Proposed rule.


SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), propose to 
designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County Distinct 
Vertebrate Population Segment (DPS) of the California tiger salamander 
(Ambystoma californiense) (referred to here as the California tiger 
salamander) pursuant to the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as

[[Page 3065]]

amended (Act). In total, approximately 13,920 acres (ac) (5,633 
hectares (ha)) fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical 
habitat designation. The proposed critical habitat is located in Santa 
Barbara County, California.
    Critical habitat identifies specific areas that are essential to 
the conservation of a listed species and, with respect to areas within 
the geographic range occupied by the species, areas that may require 
special management considerations or protection. The primary 
constituent elements for the California tiger salamander are aquatic 
and upland areas where suitable breeding and nonbreeding habitats are 
interspersed throughout the landscape, and are interconnected by 
continuous dispersal habitat. All areas proposed for designation as 
critical habitat for the California tiger salamander contain one or 
more of the primary constituent elements.
    Section 4 of the Act requires us to consider economic and other 
relevant impacts of specifying any particular area as critical habitat. 
Section 7 of the Act prohibits destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat by any activity funded, authorized, or carried out by 
any Federal agency. We solicit data and comments from the public on all 
aspects of this proposal, including data on the economic and other 
impacts of designation. We may revise this proposal to incorporate or 
address new information received during the comment period.

DATES: We will accept comments from all interested parties until March 
22, 2004. We must receive requests for public hearings, in writing, at 
the address shown in the ADDRESSES section by March 8, 2004.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and 
materials concerning this proposal by any one of several methods:
    1. You may submit written comments and information to the Field 
Supervisor, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California 93003.
    2. You may hand-deliver written comments to our Ventura Office, at 
the address given above.
    3. You may send comments by electronic mail (e-mail) to 
fw1CTSCH@r1.fws.gov. Please see the Public Comments Solicited section 
below for file format and other information about electronic filing.
    Comments and materials received, as well as supporting 
documentation used in the preparation of this proposed rule, will be 
available for public inspection, by appointment, during normal business 
hours at the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite 
B, Ventura, California (telephone 805-644-1766).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office, 2493 Portola Road, Suite B, Ventura, California, 
(telephone 805-644-1766; facsimile 805-644-3958).


Public Comments Solicited

    We intend that any final action resulting from this proposal will 
be as accurate and as effective as possible. Therefore, comments or 
suggestions from the public, other concerned governmental agencies, the 
scientific community, industry, or any other interested party 
concerning this proposed rule are hereby solicited. Comments 
particularly are sought concerning:
    (1) The reasons why any habitat should or should not be determined 
to be critical habitat as provided by section 4 of the Act, including 
whether the benefit of designation will outweigh any threats to the 
species due to designation;
    (2) Specific information on the amount and distribution of 
California tiger salamander habitat, and what habitat is essential to 
the conservation of the species and why;
    (3) Land use designations and current or planned activities in the 
subject areas and their possible impacts on proposed critical habitat;
    (4) Any foreseeable economic or other potential impacts resulting 
from the proposed designation and, in particular, any impacts on small 
entities; and
    (5) Whether our approach to designating critical habitat could be 
improved or modified in any way to provide for greater public 
participation and understanding, or to assist us in accommodating 
public concerns and comments.
    If you wish to comment, you may submit your comments and materials 
concerning this proposal by any one of several methods (see ADDRESSES 
section). Please submit Internet comments to fw1CTSCH@r1.fws.gov in 
ASCII file format and avoid the use of special characters or any form 
of encryption. Please also include ``Attn: California tiger 
salamander'' in your e-mail subject header and your name and return 
address in the body of your message. If you do not receive a 
confirmation from the system that we have received your Internet 
message, contact us directly by calling our Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office at phone number 805-644-1766. Please note that the Internet 
address fw1CTSCH@r1.fws.gov will be closed out at the termination of 
the public comment period.
    Our practice is to make comments, including names and home 
addresses of respondents, available for public review during regular 
business hours. Individual respondents may request that we withhold 
their home addresses from the rulemaking record, which we will honor to 
the extent allowable by law. There also may be circumstances in which 
we would withhold from the rulemaking record a respondent's identity, 
as allowable by law. If you wish us to withhold your name and/or 
address, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your 
comment. However, we will not consider anonymous comments. We will make 
all submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals 
identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations 
or businesses, available for public inspection in their entirety. 
Comments and materials received will be available for public 
inspection, by appointment, during normal business hours at the above 

Designation of Critical Habitat Provides Little Additional Protection 
to Species

    In 30 years of implementing the Act, the Service has found that the 
designation of statutory critical habitat provides little additional 
protection to most listed species, while consuming significant amounts 
of available conservation resources. The Service's present system for 
designating critical habitat has evolved since its original statutory 
prescription into a process that provides little real conservation 
benefit, is driven by litigation and the courts rather than biology, 
limits our ability to fully evaluate the science involved, consumes 
enormous agency resources, and imposes huge social and economic costs. 
The Service believes that additional agency discretion would allow our 
focus to return to those actions that provide the greatest benefit to 
the species most in need of protection.

Role of Critical Habitat in Actual Practice of Administering and 
Implementing the Act

    While attention to and protection of habitat is paramount to 
successful conservation actions, we have consistently found that, in 
most circumstances, the designation of critical habitat is of little 
additional value for most listed species, yet it

[[Page 3066]]

consumes large amounts of conservation resources. Sidle (1987) stated, 
``Because the Act can protect species with and without critical habitat 
designation, critical habitat designation may be redundant to the other 
consultation requirements of section 7.'' Currently, only 306 species 
or 25 percent of the 1,211 listed species in the U.S. under the 
jurisdiction of the Service have designated critical habitat. We 
address the habitat needs of all 1,211 listed species through 
conservation mechanisms such as listing, section 7 consultations, the 
Section 4 recovery planning process, the Section 9 protective 
prohibitions of unauthorized take, Section 6 funding to the States, and 
the Section 10 incidental take permit process. The Service believes 
that it is these measures that may make the difference between 
extinction and survival for many species.

Procedural and Resource Difficulties in Designating Critical Habitat

    We have been inundated with lawsuits for our failure to designate 
critical habitat, and we face a growing number of lawsuits challenging 
critical habitat determinations once they are made. These lawsuits have 
subjected the Service to an ever-increasing series of court orders and 
court-approved settlement agreements, compliance with which now 
consumes nearly the entire listing program budget. This leaves the 
Service with little ability to prioritize its activities to direct 
scarce listing resources to the listing program actions with the most 
biologically urgent species conservation needs.
    The consequence of the critical habitat litigation activity is that 
limited listing funds are used to defend active lawsuits, to respond to 
Notices of Intent (NOIs) to sue relative to critical habitat, and to 
comply with the growing number of adverse court orders. As a result, 
listing petition responses, the Service's own proposals to list 
critically imperiled species, and final listing determinations on 
existing proposals are all significantly delayed.
    The accelerated schedules of court ordered designations have left 
the Service with almost no ability to provide for adequate public 
participation or to ensure a defect-free rulemaking process before 
making decisions on listing and critical habitat proposals due to the 
risks associated with noncompliance with judicially-imposed deadlines. 
This in turn fosters a second round of litigation in which those who 
fear adverse impacts from critical habitat designations challenge those 
designations. The cycle of litigation appears endless, is very 
expensive, and in the final analysis provides relatively little 
additional protection to listed species.
    The costs resulting from the designation include legal costs, the 
cost of preparation and publication of the designation, the analysis of 
the economic effects and the cost of requesting and responding to 
public comment, and in some cases the costs of compliance with NEPA all 
are part of the cost of critical habitat designation. None of these 
costs result in any benefit to the species that is not already afforded 
by the protections of the Act enumerated earlier, and they directly 
reduce the funds available for direct and tangible conservation 


    The California tiger salamander was first described as a distinct 
species, Ambystoma californiense, by Gray in 1853 from specimens 
collected in Monterey (Grinnell and Camp 1917). Storer (1925) and 
Bishop (1943) likewise considered the California tiger salamander to be 
a distinct species. However, Dunn (1940), Gehlbach (1967), and Frost 
(1985) classified the California tiger salamander as a subspecies 
(Ambystoma tigrinum californiense) within the A. tigrinum complex. 
Based on recent morphological and genetic work, geographic isolation, 
and ecological differences among the members of the A. tigrinum 
complex, the California tiger salamander is currently considered to be 
a distinct species (Shaffer and Stanley 1991; Jones 1993; Shaffer and 
McKnight 1996; Irschick and Shaffer 1997) and was recognized as such in 
the November 21, 1991, Annual Notice of Review (56 FR 58804). The 
recent literature has uniformly accepted this position (Petranka 1998).
    The California tiger salamander is a large terrestrial salamander 
with a broad, rounded snout. Adults may reach a total length of 8.2 in, 
with males generally averaging about 8 in and females averaging 6.8 in. 
The small eyes have black irises and protrude from the head. Coloration 
consists of white or pale yellow spots or bars on a black background on 
the back and sides and a yellowish belly. Males can be distinguished 
from females, especially during the breeding season, by their swollen 
cloacae (a common chamber into which the intestinal, urinary, and 
reproductive canals discharge), more developed tail fins, and larger 
overall size (Loredo and Van Vuren 1996).
    California tiger salamanders are restricted to California, and 
their range does not overlap with any other species of tiger salamander 
(Stebbins 1985). Within California, the Santa Barbara County DPS is 
separated from the remainder of the range of the species by the Coast 
Ranges, particularly the La Panza and Sierra Madre Ranges, and the 
Carrizo Plain, which extends into the Temblor Range in eastern San Luis 
Obispo and western Kern Counties (Shaffer et al. 1993).
    Santa Barbara County California tiger salamanders constitute a DPS 
with a potential range that is approximately 10 percent of Santa 
Barbara County's 2,738 square miles (mi 2). Historically, 
the range likely included what are now urbanized areas of the Cities of 
Santa Maria and Orcutt. Much of the species' habitat in Santa Barbara 
County has been lost or degraded by urban development and conversion of 
rangeland to intensive agriculture, including vineyards. Forty-six 
breeding ponds have been documented within the County.
    The 46 known California tiger salamander breeding ponds appear to 
be distributed in 6 general areas, which we refer to as ``populations'' 
or ``subpopulations'': western Santa Maria/Orcutt, eastern Santa Maria, 
western Los Alamos/Careaga, eastern Los Alamos, the Purisima Hills, and 
the Santa Rita Valley. Because known ponds in different populations are 
separated from each other by a minimum of 2.49 miles (mi), which is 
approximately twice the maximum distance that California tiger 
salamanders have been observed to travel from a breeding pond, these 
areas are treated as separate, unconnected populations for the purposes 
of this critical habitat designation. However, some areas with 
potential breeding ponds that have never been surveyed for California 
tiger salamanders may link these areas, especially around the Purisima 
Hills and Santa Rita Valley populations.
    Although California tiger salamanders spend most of their lives in 
upland habitats, their reproduction is tied to aquatic habitats. The 
salamanders breeding in and living around a pool or seasonal pond, or a 
local complex of pools or seasonal ponds, constitute a local 
population. Historically, California tiger salamanders bred primarily 
in natural vernal pools, but they also breed successfully in human-made 
stock ponds created for ranching and agricultural purposes.
    Migrations to and from breeding ponds occur during the rainy season 
(November to May), with the greatest activity from December to February 
(Storer 1925; Loredo and Van Vuren 1996; Trenham et al. 2000). Breeding 
migrations are strongly associated with rainfall events. Breeding may 
occur in

[[Page 3067]]

one major bout or during a prolonged period of several months, 
depending on the rainfall pattern. During drought years, adults 
(particularly females) migrate in low numbers. Males consistently 
arrive at the breeding pond before females and stay approximately 40 
days, which is 4 times longer than females stay (Loredo and Van Vuren 
1996; Trenham et al. 2000).
    Female California tiger salamanders mate and lay their eggs singly 
or in small groups, typically attached to vegetation near the edge of 
the breeding pond (Twitty 1941; Shaffer et al. 1993). After breeding, 
adults leave the pond and return to small mammal burrows within upland 
habitats (Loredo et al. 1996; Trenham 2001), although they may continue 
to come out nightly for approximately the next 2 weeks to feed (Shaffer 
et al. 1993).
    California tiger salamander eggs require 2 to 4 weeks to hatch into 
larvae (Storer 1925). After 3 to 6 months of development, the larvae 
metamorphose (change into a different physical form) into terrestrial 
juveniles. Amphibian larvae must grow to a critical minimum body size 
before they can metamorphose (Wilbur and Collins 1973). The longer the 
ponding duration, the larger the larvae and metamorphosed juveniles are 
able to grow, and the more likely they are to survive and reproduce 
(Pechmann et al. 1989; Semlitsch et al. 1988; Morey 1998; Trenham 
1998b). The larvae will perish if a site dries before metamorphosis is 
complete (Anderson 1968; Feaver 1971).
    In the late spring or early summer, before the ponds dry 
completely, metamorphosed juveniles leave them and enter upland 
habitat. This emigration occurs in both wet and dry conditions (Loredo 
and Van Vuren 1996; Loredo et al. 1996). Unlike during their winter 
migration, the wet conditions that California tiger salamanders prefer 
do not generally occur during the months when their breeding ponds 
begin to dry. As a result, juveniles may be forced to leave their ponds 
on rainless nights. Under these conditions, they may move only short 
distances to find temporary upland sites for the dry summer months, 
waiting until the next winter's rains to move further into suitable 
upland refugia. Once juvenile California tiger salamanders leave their 
birth ponds for upland refugia, they typically do not return to ponds 
to breed for an average of 4 to 5 years. However, they remain active in 
the uplands, coming to the surface during rainfall events to disperse 
or forage (Trenham and Shaffer, unpublished manuscript).

Habitat Requirements and Characteristics

    The California tiger salamander inhabits low-elevation (typically 
below 1,400 ft (ft)), vernal pools and seasonal ponds and the 
associated grassland, oak savannah, and coastal scrub plant communities 
of the Santa Maria, Los Alamos, and Santa Rita Valleys in northwestern 
Santa Barbara County (Shaffer et al. 1993; Service 2000).
    The aquatic component of the California tiger salamander's habitat 
consists of temporary ponded freshwater habitats. Historically, the 
vernal pools constituted the majority of California tiger salamander 
breeding habitat. Vernal pools typically form in topographic 
depressions underlain by an impervious layer (such as claypan, hardpan, 
or volcanic strata) that prevents downward percolation of water. Vernal 
pool hydrology is characterized by ponding of water during the late 
fall, winter, and spring, followed by complete desiccation during the 
summer dry season (Holland and Jain 1998).
    In Santa Barbara County, California tiger salamanders are found in 
three general types of natural vernal pools, including (1) dunal or 
deflational pools and ponds in sandy terraces; (2) isolated fold and 
fault sag ponds within ridges or valleys; and (3) fluvial ponds of 
varying origins in intermittent drainages within or along the margins 
of terraces.
    In addition to vernal pools and seasonal ponds, California tiger 
salamanders also use small artificial water bodies such as stockponds 
for breeding (Stebbins 1985; Zeiner et al. 1988; Shaffer et al. 1993). 
However, stockponds often are poorer habitat for California tiger 
salamanders than natural vernal pools. Hydroperiods may be so short 
that larvae cannot metamorphose (e.g., early drawdown of irrigation 
ponds), or so long that predatory fish and bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) 
can colonize the pond (Shaffer et al. 1993; Seymour and Westphal 1994). 
Permanent wetlands can support breeding California tiger salamanders if 
fish are not present, but extirpation of the salamander population is 
likely if fish are introduced (Shaffer et al. 1993; Seymour and 
Westphal 1994). Artificial ponds also require ongoing maintenance and 
are often temporary structures. Periodic maintenance to remove silt 
from stockponds or to reinforce or strengthen berms may also cause a 
temporary loss of habitat.
    Regardless of pond type, breeding ponds need to be inundated (hold 
water) for a minimum of 12 weeks to allow for successful metamorphosis.
    California tiger salamanders spend the majority of their lives in 
upland habitats. The upland component of California tiger salamander 
habitat typically consists of grassland savannah with scattered oak 
trees. However, in Santa Barbara County, some occupied California tiger 
salamander breeding ponds exist within mixed grassland and woodland 
habitats, and a few ponds are found in woodlands, scrub, or chaparral 
    Within these upland habitats, adult California tiger salamanders 
spend the greater part of their lives in the underground burrows of 
small mammals, especially the burrows of California ground squirrels 
(Spermophilus beecheyi) and valley pocket gophers (Thommomys bottae) 
(Barry and Shaffer 1994), at depths ranging from 7.9 in to 3.3 ft 
beneath the ground surface (Trenham 2001). These burrows provide food 
for California tiger salamanders, as well as protection from the sun 
and wind associated with the dry California climate that can cause 
dessication (drying out) of amphibian skin. Although California tiger 
salamanders are members of a family of ``burrowing'' salamanders, 
California tiger salamanders are not known to create their own burrows 
in the wild, likely due to the hardness of soils in the California 
ecosystems in which they are found. Put simply, California tiger 
salamanders require small mammal burrows for survival. Because they 
live underground in the burrows of mammals, they are rarely encountered 
even where abundant.
    The burrows may be active or inactive, but because they collapse 
within 18 months if not maintained, an active population of burrowing 
mammals is necessary to sustain sufficient underground refugia for the 
species (Loredo et al. 1996). Adult California tiger salamanders are 
rarely found on the surface or under logs or other debris, but they 
will emerge from their burrows to move around and apparently forage 
(Trenham and Shaffer unpublished manuscript).
    Little is known about what California tiger salamanders are doing 
while in burrows, as they are difficult to observe while underground. 
Although the upland burrows inhabited by California tiger salamanders 
have often been referred to as ``aestivation'' sites, which implies a 
state of inactivity, most evidence suggests that California tiger 
salamanders remain active in their underground dwellings. Trenham 
(2001) recorded underground movements within burrow systems, and other

[[Page 3068]]

researchers have observed active California tiger salamanders using 
fiberoptic or infrared scopes (Semonsen 1998; Michael van Hattem, 
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, pers. comm. 2003). Because 
California tiger salamanders arrive at breeding ponds in good condition 
and are heavier when entering a pond than when leaving, researchers 
have long inferred that the California tiger salamanders are feeding 
while underground. Recent direct observations have confirmed this 
(Trenham 2001; van Hattem, pers. comm. 2003). Thus, ``upland'' or 
``nonbreeding'' habitat is a more accurate description of the 
terrestrial areas used by California tiger salamanders.

Dispersal and Migration

    Movements made by California tiger salamanders can be grouped into 
two main categories: (1) Breeding migration; and (2) interpond 
dispersal. Breeding migration is the movement of salamanders to and 
from a pond from the surrounding upland habitat. After metamorphosis, 
juveniles move away from breeding ponds into the surrounding uplands, 
where they live continuously for several years (on average, 4 years). 
Upon reaching sexual maturity, most individuals return to their natal/
birth pond to breed, while 20 percent disperse to other ponds (Trenham 
et al. 2001). Following breeding, adult California tiger salamanders 
return to upland habitats, where they may live for one or more years 
before breeding again (Trenham et al. 2000).
    California tiger salamanders are known to travel large distances 
from breeding ponds into upland habitats. Maximum distances moved are 
generally difficult to establish for any species, but California tiger 
salamanders have been recorded to disperse 1.2 mi (2 kilometers (km)) 
from breeding ponds. California tiger salamanders are known to travel 
between breeding ponds; one study found that 20 to 25 percent of the 
individuals captured at one pond were recaptured later at ponds 
approximately 1,900 and 2,200 ft away (Trenham et al. 2001).
    On the Stanford University campus, California tiger salamanders 
have moved up to 1 mi from their natal/breeding ponds. In Santa Barbara 
County, an adult California tiger salamander was found more than 1.2 mi 
from a breeding pond (S. Sweet, in litt. 1998). In addition to 
traveling long distances during migration to or dispersal from ponds, 
California tiger salamanders actually reside in burrows that are far 
from ponds. In Santa Barbara County, an adult California tiger 
salamander was seen in the mouth of a burrow 1,900 ft from the nearest 
known breeding pond in June, a month when California tiger salamander 
dispersal is unlikely (Rob Schoenholtz, biologist, LSA Associates, 
pers. comm. 2002). At one site in Contra Costa County, hundreds of 
California tiger salamanders have been captured three years in a row in 
upland habitat approximately 0.5 mi (2,640 ft) from the nearest 
breeding pond (Sue Orloff, biologist, IBIS Environmental, in litt. 
    Although the observations above show that California tiger 
salamanders can travel far, typically they stay closer to breeding 
ponds. Evidence suggests that juvenile California tiger salamanders 
disperse further into upland habitats than adult California tiger 
salamanders. A trapping study conducted in Solano County during winter 
2002-03 found that juveniles used upland habitats further from breeding 
ponds than adults (Trenham and Shaffer, unpublished manuscript). More 
juvenile salamanders were captured at distances of 328, 656, and 1,312 
ft (100, 200 and 400 meters (m), respectively) from a breeding pond 
than at 164 ft (50 m). Large numbers (approximately 20 percent of total 
captures) were found 1,312 ft (400 m) from a breeding pond. Fitting a 
distribution curve to the data revealed that 95 percent of juvenile 
salamanders could be found within 2,099 ft (640 m) of the pond, with 
the remaining 5 percent being found at even greater distances. 
Preliminary results from the 2003-04 trapping efforts detected juvenile 
California tiger salamanders at even further distances, with a large 
proportion of the total salamanders caught at 2,297 ft (700 m) from the 
breeding pond (Trenham et al., unpublished data). Surprisingly, most 
juveniles captured, even those at 700 m, were still moving away from 
ponds (Ben Fitzpatrick, University of California at Davis, pers. comm. 
2004). In Santa Barbara County, juvenile California tiger salamanders 
have been trapped approximately 1,200 ft (366 m) away while dispersing 
from their natal pond (Science Applications International Corporation 
(SAIC), unpublished data). These data show that many California tiger 
salamanders travel far while still in the juvenile stage.
    Post-breeding movements away from breeding ponds by adults appear 
to be much smaller. During post-breeding emigration, radio-equipped 
adult California tiger salamanders were tracked to burrows 62 to 813 ft 
(19 to 248 m) from their breeding ponds (Trenham, 2001). These reduced 
movements may be due to adult California tiger salamanders having 
depleted physical reserves post-breeding, or also due to the drier 
weather conditions that can occur during the period when adults leave 
the ponds.
    The spatial distribution of California tiger salamanders in the 
uplands surrounding breeding ponds is a key issue for conservation 
planning. Although it might be supposed that California tiger 
salamanders will move only short distances if abundant burrows are 
found near their ponds, this is not the case. In the aforementioned 
study in Solano County, while abundant burrows are available near the 
pond, a nearly equal number of California tiger salamanders were 
captured at 328, 656, and 1,312 ft (100, 200 and 400 m, respectively) 
from the breeding pond (Trenham and Shaffer, unpublished manuscript). 
Similarly, Trenham (2001) tracked salamanders to burrows up to 814 ft 
(248 m) from a breeding pond, although burrows were abundant at 
distances nearer to the pond. In addition, rather than staying in a 
single burrow, most individuals used several successive burrows at 
increasing distances from the pond.
    Although the studies discussed above provide an approximation of 
the distances that California tiger salamanders regularly move from 
their breeding ponds, upland habitat features will drive the details of 
movements in a particular landscape. Unlike other ambystomatid 
salamanders, California tiger salamanders and other tiger salamanders 
are grassland animals, and do not favor forested areas as corridors for 
movement or long-term residence. Trenham (2001) found that radio-
tracked adults favored grasslands with scattered large oaks, over more 
densely wooded areas. A drift-fence survey at a Santa Barbara County 
pond that is bordered by a strawberry field found that many emigrating 
juveniles moved towards the strawberry field; however, no adults were 
captured entering the pond from this direction. Most of the California 
tiger salamanders entered the pond from extensive, overgrazed grassy 
flats rather than sandhill or eucalyptus habitats in other quadrants 
(Steve Sykes, University of California at Santa Barbara, unpublished 
data 2003).
    Based on radio-tracked adults, there is no indication that certain 
habitat types are favored as corridors for terrestrial movements 
(Trenham 2001). In addition, at two ponds completely encircled by drift 
fences and pitfall traps, captures of arriving adults and dispersing 
new metamorphs were

[[Page 3069]]

distributed roughly evenly around the ponds. Thus, it appears that 
dispersal into the terrestrial habitat occurs randomly with respect to 
direction and habitat types.
    Most California tiger salamanders breed in the pond where they 
hatched and developed as larvae, and we refer to these aggregations at 
specific breeding ponds as populations. Because random events, such as 
disease or droughts, may occasionally extirpate local populations 
(i.e., drive them to local extinction), maintaining interpond dispersal 
is important for the long-term viability of California tiger 
salamanders in an area. In Monterey County, Trenham et al. (2001) 
showed that a significant minority of California tiger salamanders 
dispersed to other ponds. In that study, more than 20 percent of both 
first-time and experienced breeders were recaptured breeding at ponds 
other than where they were last captured. Documented dispersers had 
moved up to 2,200 ft (670 m), and, based on a projected exponential 
relationship between dispersal probability and distance, less than 1 
percent of dispersers are likely to move between ponds separated by 
0.70 mi (1,158 m). The frequency of dispersal among subpopulations will 
ultimately depend on the distance between the ponds or complexes and 
also on the intervening habitat (e.g., salamanders may move more 
quickly through grassland than through more densely vegetated 
    Adults may migrate long distances between summering and breeding 
sites. The distance from breeding sites may depend on local topography 
and vegetation, the distribution of ground squirrel or other rodent 
burrows, and climatic conditions (Stebbins 1989; Hunt 1998). 
Observations of California tiger salamanders on the surface away from 
ponds (presumably migrating to or from the breeding pond, moving from 
one burrow to another, or in search of food) almost inevitably coincide 
with recent rainfall, suggesting that surface movement is limited to 
periods of precipitation.
    For a sustainable breeding population to exist, we need to ensure 
that a sufficient fraction of the adult and juvenile salamanders 
hatched in a given pond survive their excursions into the surrounding 
uplands and return to breed again. Taylor and Scott (1997) determined 
that for sustainable populations of a demographically similar species, 
Ambystoma opacum, survivorship in the uplands should be at least 70 
percent per year. Because in Monterey County natural annual mortality 
in an undeveloped landscape was roughly 30 percent (Trenham et al. 
2000), we need to ensure that upland habitat modifications in Santa 
Barbara County do not appreciably increase mortality.

Previous Federal Actions

    On September 18, 1985, we published the Vertebrate Notice of Review 
(NOR) (50 FR 37958), which included the California tiger salamander as 
a category 2 candidate species for possible future listing as 
threatened or endangered. Category 2 candidates were those taxa for 
which information contained in our files indicated that listing may be 
appropriate but for which additional data were needed to support a 
listing proposal. The January 6, 1989, and November 21, 1991, candidate 
NORs (54 FR 554 and 56 FR 58804, respectively) also included the 
California tiger salamander as a category 2 candidate, soliciting 
information on the status of the species.
    On February 21, 1992, we received a petition from Dr. H. Bradley 
Shaffer of the University of California at Davis, to list the 
California tiger salamander as an endangered species. We published a 
90-day petition finding on November 19, 1992 (57 FR 54545), concluding 
that the petition presented substantial information indicating that 
listing may be warranted. On April 18, 1994, we published a 12-month 
petition finding (59 FR 18353) that the listing of the California tiger 
salamander was warranted but precluded by higher priority listing 
actions. We elevated the species to category 1 status at that time, 
which was reflected in the November 15, 1994, Animal NOR (59 FR 58982). 
Category 1 candidates were those taxa for which we had on file 
sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threats to 
support preparation of listing proposals. On April 10, 1995, Pub. L. 
104-6 imposed a moratorium on listings and critical habitat 
designations and rescinded $1.5 million funding from our listing 
program. The moratorium was lifted and listing funding was restored 
through passage of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act on April 26, 
1996. We discontinued the use of different categories of candidates in 
the NOR published February 28, 1996 (61 FR 7596), and defined 
``candidate species'' as those meeting the definition of former 
category 1. We maintained the California tiger salamander as a 
candidate species in that NOR, as well as in subsequent NORs published 
on September 19, 1997 (62 FR 49398), October 25, 1999 (64 FR 57533), 
and October 30, 2001 (66 FR 54808).
    On January 19, 2000, we published an emergency rule listing the 
Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger salamander as 
endangered (65 FR 3096) together with a proposed rule to list the DPS 
as endangered (65 FR 3110). On September 21, 2000, we listed the Santa 
Barbara County DPS as endangered (65 FR 57242). On May 23, 2003, we 
published a proposed rule (1) to list the Central California DPS of the 
California tiger salamander as a threatened species, (2) to downlist 
both the Santa Barbara County and the Sonoma County DPSs of the 
California tiger salamander from endangered to threatened status, and 
(3) to exempt existing routine ranching operations under Section 4(d) 
of the Act from the take prohibition of section 9 of the Act in the 
event we list the Central California DPS and reclassify either the 
Santa Barbara County or Sonoma County DPSs from endangered to 
threatened (68 FR 28648). We have not yet published final decisions on 
any of the proposals in this proposed rule.
    On February 25, 2003, the Environmental Defense Center and Center 
for Biological Diversity filed a complaint challenging our failure to 
designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County DPS of the 
California tiger salamander (Environmental Defense Center et al. v. 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service et al., EVCD 03-00195 (C.D.Cal)). By an 
order dated August 7, 2003, the district court ordered us to publish a 
proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Santa Barbara DPS 
by January 15, 2004. This proposed rule complies with the court order.

Critical Habitat

    Critical habitat is defined in section 3 of the Act as--(i) the 
specific areas within the geographic area occupied by a species, at the 
time it is listed in accordance with the Act, on which are found those 
physical or biological features (I) essential to the conservation of 
the species and (II) that may require special management considerations 
or protection; and (ii) specific areas outside the geographic area 
occupied by a species at the time it is listed, upon a determination 
that such areas are essential for the conservation of the species. 
``Conservation'' means the use of all methods and procedures that are 
necessary to bring an endangered or a threatened species to the point 
at which listing under the Act is no longer necessary.
    Critical habitat receives protection under section 7 of the Act 
through the prohibition against destruction or adverse modification of 
critical habitat with regard to actions carried out, funded, or 
authorized by a Federal agency. Section 7 requires consultation on 
Federal actions that are likely to

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result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. 
In our regulations at 50 CFR 402.02, we define destruction or adverse 
modification as ``a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably 
diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and 
recovery of a listed species. Such alterations include, but are not 
limited to, alterations adversely modifying any of those physical or 
biological features that were the basis for determining the habitat to 
be critical.'' Aside from the added protection that may be provided 
under section 7, the Act does not provide other forms of protection to 
lands designated as critical habitat. Because consultation under 
section 7 of the Act does not apply to activities on private or other 
non-Federal lands that do not involve a Federal nexus, critical habitat 
designation would not afford any additional protections under the Act 
against such activities.
    To be included in a critical habitat designation, the habitat must 
first be ``essential to the conservation of the species.'' Critical 
habitat designations identify, to the extent known using the best 
scientific and commercial data available, habitat areas that provide 
essential life cycle needs of the species (i.e., areas on which are 
found the primary constituent elements, as defined at 50 CFR 
    Section 4 requires that we designate critical habitat at the time 
of listing and based on what we know at the time of the designation. 
When we designate critical habitat at the time of listing or under 
short court-ordered deadlines, we will often not have sufficient 
information to identify all areas of critical habitat. We are required, 
nevertheless, to make a decision and thus must base our designations on 
what, at the time of designation, we know to be critical habitat.
    Within the geographic area occupied by the species, we will 
designate only areas currently known to be essential. Essential areas 
should already have the features and habitat characteristics that are 
necessary to sustain the species. We will not speculate about what 
areas might be found to be essential if better information became 
available, or what areas may become essential over time. If the 
information available at the time of designation does not show that an 
area provides essential life cycle needs of the species, then the area 
should not be included in the critical habitat designation. Within the 
geographic area occupied by the species, we will not designate areas 
that do not now have the primary constituent elements, as defined at 50 
CFR 424.12(b), that provide essential life cycle needs of the species. 
We have also excluded from this proposal some areas within the range of 
the species where California tiger salamanders are currently found, 
areas of suitable habitat where they might potentially occur, and some 
localities where they historically occurred. Only areas considered 
essential to the conservation of the species are included in this 
    Our regulations state that, ``The Secretary shall designate as 
critical habitat areas outside the geographic area presently occupied 
by the species only when a designation limited to its present range 
would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species' (50 CFR 
424.12(e)). Accordingly, when the best available scientific and 
commercial data do not demonstrate that the conservation needs of the 
species so require, we will not designate critical habitat in areas 
outside the geographic area occupied by the species.
    Our Policy on Information Standards Under the Endangered Species 
Act, published in the Federal Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34271), 
provides criteria, establishes procedures, and provides guidance to 
ensure that decisions made by the Service represent the best scientific 
and commercial data available. It requires Service biologists, to the 
extent consistent with the Act and with the use of the best scientific 
and commercial data available, to use primary and original sources of 
information as the basis for recommendations to designate critical 
habitat. When determining which areas are critical habitat, a primary 
source of information should be the listing package for the species. 
Additional information may be obtained from a recovery plan, articles 
in peer-reviewed journals, conservation plans developed by States and 
counties, scientific status surveys and studies, biological 
assessments, unpublished materials, and expert opinion or personal 
    Habitat is often dynamic, and species may move from one area to 
another over time. Furthermore, we recognize that designation of 
critical habitat may not include all of the habitat areas that may 
eventually be determined to be essential for the conservation of the 
species. For these reasons, all should understand that critical habitat 
designations do not signal that habitat outside the designation is 
unimportant to California tiger salamanders. Areas outside the critical 
habitat designation will continue to be subject to conservation actions 
that may be implemented under section 7(a)(1), and to the regulatory 
protections afforded by the section 7(a)(2) jeopardy standard and the 
section 9 take prohibition, as determined on the basis of the best 
available information at the time of the action. We specifically 
anticipate that federally funded or assisted projects affecting listed 
species outside their designated critical habitat areas may still 
result in jeopardy findings in some cases. Similarly, critical habitat 
designations made on the basis of the best available information at the 
time of designation will not control the direction and substance of 
future recovery plans, habitat conservation plans, or other species 
conservation planning efforts if new information available to these 
planning efforts calls for a different outcome.


    In determining areas that are essential to conserve the California 
tiger salamander, we used the best scientific and commercial data 
available. We have reviewed the overall approach to the conservation of 
the California tiger salamander undertaken by local, State, and Federal 
agencies operating within the species' range since its listing in 2000, 
and recommended to us by the California tiger salamander recovery team.
    We have also reviewed available information that pertains to the 
habitat requirements of this species. The material included data in 
reports submitted during section 7 consultations and by biologists 
holding section 10(a)(1)(A) recovery permits; research published in 
peer-reviewed articles and presented in academic theses and agency 
reports; and regional Geographic Information System (GIS) coverages.

Primary Constituent Elements

    In accordance with section 3(5)(A)(i) of the Act and regulations at 
50 CFR 424.12, in determining which areas to propose as critical 
habitat, we are required to base critical habitat determinations on the 
best scientific and commercial data available and to consider those 
physical and biological features (primary constituent elements (PCEs)) 
that are essential to the conservation of the species, and that may 
require special management considerations and protection. These 
include, but are not limited to: space for individual and population 
growth and for normal behavior; food, water, air, light, minerals, or 
other nutritional or physiological requirements; cover or shelter; 
sites for breeding, reproduction, and rearing (or development) of 
offspring; and habitats that are protected from disturbance or are 
representative of

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the historic geographical and ecological distributions of a species.
    The areas proposed for designation as critical habitat for the 
California tiger salamander are designed to provide sufficient aquatic 
habitat for breeding and upland habitat as refugia for adults to 
maintain and sustain populations of California tiger salamanders 
throughout their range, and provide those habitat components essential 
for the conservation of the species. Due to the complex life history 
and dispersal capabilities of California tiger salamanders, and the 
dynamic nature of the environments in which they are found, the primary 
constituent elements described below should be found throughout the 
units that are being designated as critical habitat. Special 
management, such as habitat rehabilitation efforts (e.g., removal of 
nonnative predators, control of introduced tiger salamanders, erosion 
and sediment control measures), may be necessary throughout the area 
being designated. Critical habitat for California tiger salamanders 
will provide for breeding and nonbreeding habitat and for dispersal 
between these habitats, as well as allowing for an increase in the size 
of California tiger salamander populations, which is essential to the 
conservation of the subspecies.
    Critical habitat includes: essential aquatic habitat, essential 
upland nonbreeding season habitat with underground refugia, and 
dispersal habitat connecting occupied California tiger salamander 
locations to each other.
    Based on our current knowledge of the life history and ecology of 
the species and the relationship of its essential life history 
functions to its habitat, as summarized above in the Background 
section, we have determined that the California tiger salamander 
requires the following primary constituent elements:
    (1) Standing bodies of fresh water, including natural and man-made 
(e.g., stock) ponds, vernal pools, and dune ponds, and other ephemeral 
or permanent water bodies that typically become inundated during winter 
rains and hold water for a sufficient length of time (i.e., 12 weeks) 
necessary for the species to complete the aquatic portion of its life 
    (2) Barrier-free uplands adjacent to breeding ponds that contain 
small mammal burrows, including but not limited to burrows created by 
the California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) and Botta's 
pocket gopher (Thommomys bottae). Small mammals are essential in 
creating the underground habitat that adult California tiger 
salamanders depend upon for food, shelter, and protection from the 
elements and predation.
    (3) Upland areas between breeding locations (PCE 1) and areas with 
small mammal burrows (PCE 2) that allow for dispersal among such sites.
    We describe the relationship between each of these PCEs and the 
conservation of the salamander in more detail below.
    The essential aquatic habitat described as the first PCE is 
essential for California tiger salamander breeding and for providing 
space, food, and cover necessary to sustain early life history stages 
of California tiger salamanders. Breeding habitat consists of fresh 
water bodies, including natural and man-made (e.g., stock) ponds, 
vernal pools, and dune ponds. To be considered essential, aquatic 
habitats must have the potential to hold water for a minimum of 12 
weeks in the winter or spring in a year of average rainfall because 
this is the amount of time needed for juveniles to complete 
metamorphosis and become capable of surviving in upland habitats. 
During periods of drought or less-than-average rainfall, these breeding 
sites may not hold water long enough for individuals to complete 
metamorphosis, but these sites would still be considered essential 
because they constitute breeding habitat in years of average rainfall. 
Without its essential aquatic habitat, the California tiger salamander 
would not survive, as no breeding could occur.
    Associated upland habitat containing underground refugia described 
as the second PCE is essential for the survival of adult California 
tiger salamanders and juveniles that have recently undergone 
metamorphosis. Adult and juvenile California tiger salamanders are 
terrestrial, and they enter aquatic habitats only for short periods of 
time to breed. For the majority of their life cycle, California tiger 
salamanders depend for survival on upland habitats containing 
underground refugia in the form of small mammal burrows. These 
underground refugia provide protection from the hot, dry weather 
typical of Santa Barbara County in the nonbreeding season. California 
tiger salamanders also find food in small mammal burrows and rely on 
the burrows for protection from predators. The presence of small 
burrowing mammal populations is essential for constructing and 
maintaining burrows.
    The dispersal habitat described as the third PCE is essential for 
the conservation of the California tiger salamander. Protecting the 
ability of California tiger salamanders to move freely across the 
landscape in search of breeding ponds is essential in maintaining gene 
flow and for recolonization of sites that are temporarily extirpated. 
Lifetime reproductive success for California and other tiger 
salamanders is low. Trenham et al. (2000) found the average female bred 
1.4 times and produced 8.5 young that survived to metamorphosis per 
reproductive effort. This resulted in roughly 11 metamorphic offspring 
over the lifetime of a female. In part, this low reproductive success 
is due to the extended time it takes for California tiger salamanders 
to reach sexual maturity: most do not breed until 4 or 5 years of age. 
While individuals may survive for more than 10 years, many breed only 
once. Combined with low survivorship of metamorphosed individuals (in 
some populations, less than 5 percent of marked juveniles survive to 
become breeding adults (Trenham et al. 2000)), reproductive output in 
most years is not sufficient to maintain populations. This trend 
suggests that the species requires occasional ``boom'' breeding events 
to prevent extirpation (temporary or permanent loss of the species from 
a particular habitat) or extinction (Trenham et al. 2000). With such 
low recruitment, isolated populations are susceptible to unusual, 
randomly occurring natural events as well as from human-caused factors 
that reduce breeding success and individual survival. Factors that 
repeatedly lower breeding success in isolated pools can quickly 
extirpate a population. Therefore, a critical element for successful 
conservation is the maintenance of sets of interconnected sites that 
are within the ``rescue'' distance of other ponds (Trenham et al. 
    Dispersal habitat described as the third PCE is also essential in 
preserving the California tiger salamander's population structure. The 
life history and ecology of the California tiger salamander make it 
likely that this species has a metapopulation structure (Hanski and 
Gilpin 1991). A metapopulation is a set of local populations or 
breeding sites within an area, where typically migration from one local 
population or breeding site to other areas containing suitable habitat 
is possible, but not routine. Movement between areas containing 
suitable habitat (i.e., dispersal) is restricted due to inhospitable 
conditions around and between areas of suitable habitat. Because many 
of the areas of suitable habitat may be small and support small numbers 
of salamanders, local extinction of these small units may be common. A 

[[Page 3072]]

persistence depends on the combined dynamics of these local extinctions 
and the subsequent recolonization of these areas through dispersal 
(Hanski and Gilpin 1991; Hanski 1994).
    Essential dispersal habitat generally consists of upland areas 
adjacent to essential aquatic habitat that are not isolated from 
breeding ponds by barriers that California tiger salamanders cannot 
cross. Essential dispersal habitat provides connectivity among 
California tiger salamander breeding ponds. While California tiger 
salamanders can bypass many obstacles, and do not require a particular 
type of habitat for dispersal, the habitat connecting essential aquatic 
habitat must be free of barriers (e.g., a physical or biological 
feature that prevents salamanders from dispersing beyond the feature). 
Examples of barriers are areas of steep topography devoid of soil or 
vegetation and State Highway 101. Agricultural lands such as row crops, 
orchards, vineyards, and pastures do not constitute barriers to the 
dispersal of California tiger salamanders. In general, we propose 
critical habitat that allows for dispersal between breeding locations 
within 0.70 mi (1,158 m) of each other; however, we decreased or 
increased this distance based on site-specific conditions within each 
    In summary, the primary constituent elements consist of three 
components. At a minimum, this will include suitable breeding locations 
and associated uplands surrounding these water bodies that are 
connected by dispersal habitat that is free of barriers.

Criteria Used To Identify Critical Habitat

    To identify areas that are essential to the conservation of the 
California tiger salamander in Santa Barbara County, we first looked at 
the potential range of the species, as was mapped in spring of 2000 by 
biologists who had conducted California tiger salamander surveys 
throughout Santa Barbara County. The boundaries of the potential range 
were developed based on topography, geology, and survey information. In 
some areas (e.g., Vandenberg Air Force Base), seemingly appropriate 
habitat was excluded based on several years of negative survey results. 
Other areas (e.g., the Solomon Hills) had slopes too steep to support 
ponding necessary for California tiger salamander breeding. Other areas 
of intact habitat adjacent to known ponds were included, and areas with 
extensive ponded wetland habitat (e.g., Guadalupe Lakes) were also 
    We then focused on areas within the range where we had credible 
records (e.g., museum voucher specimens, reports filed by biologists 
holding section 10(a)(1)(A) recovery permits) indicating California 
tiger salamander presence. The known locations of California tiger 
salamanders fall into six disparate areas of Santa Barbara County. Our 
conservation strategy for the DPS focuses on providing sufficient 
breeding and upland habitat to ensure high enough adult survival to 
maintain and sustain existing populations of California tiger 
salamanders in each of these six areas within the County. Each of the 
six areas has a unique combination of habitat types, breeding pond 
types, landscape features, surrounding land uses, and topography. 
Because so few extant populations exist, and the threats to these are 
substantial, we determined that these six areas were essential to the 
conservation of the species.
    Conserving California tiger salamanders over the long term requires 
a three-pronged approach: (1) Protecting the hydrology and water 
quality of breeding pools and ponds; (2) retaining or providing for 
connectivity between breeding locations for genetic exchange and 
recolonization; and (3) protecting sufficient upland habitat around 
each breeding location to allow for high enough adult survival to 
maintain a breeding population over the long term. An explanation of 
how we determined the amount of upland habitat that is essential for 
the conservation of the California tiger salamander in each critical 
habitat unit is described in more detail below.
    Once we identified the known breeding locations, we mapped the 
upland watershed of each pond based on aerial photographs taken in 2002 
(AirPhotoUSA Inc. 2002) overlain with topographic relief lines. 
Protecting the watersheds of breeding ponds is essential for two 
reasons: (1) To ensure that the amount of water entering the pond is 
not altered too much (which can allow for colonization of breeding 
sites by bullfrogs and fish, which can prey upon California tiger 
salamander eggs and larvae); and (2) to preserve water quality by 
minimizing the entry of sediments and other contaminants to the 
breeding ponds. Therefore, our proposed critical habitat boundaries 
include the watersheds of all known breeding ponds.
    We then identified the upland habitat surrounding the ponds where 
juvenile and adult California tiger salamanders live during the 
majority of their life cycle. To determine a general guideline for the 
amount of upland habitat necessary to support a population of adult 
California tiger salamanders, we reviewed the primary literature 
regarding California tiger salamander upland habitat use, including 
Trenham (2000), Trenham et al. (2000), and Trenham and Shaffer 
(unpublished manuscript). We also reviewed information from other 
biologists who have conducted upland habitat use studies but have not 
yet written up the results (e.g., Sue Orloff, Steve Sykes, SAIC--see 
Background section).
    Extensive data indicate that California tiger salamanders do not 
remain primarily in burrows close to breeding ponds, but instead move 
some distance out into the surrounding landscape. As described in the 
Background section, California tiger salamanders have been found up to 
1.2 mi (2 kms) from breeding ponds. However, most California tiger 
salamanders are found closer to the ponds. Two studies conducted in 
Monterey and Solano Counties provide the best available data on upland 
movement distances. First, the mark-recapture study of Trenham et al. 
(2001) showed that California tiger salamanders commonly moved between 
ponds separated by 2,200 ft (670 m), suggesting that movements of this 
magnitude are not rare. Second, the ongoing study at Olcott Lake 
(Solano County) has directly documented the presence of high densities 
of juvenile and adult California tiger salamanders at upland locations 
at least 1,312 ft (400 m) from this breeding pond. Recent trapping 
efforts captured large numbers (representing 16 percent of total 
captures) of juvenile salamanders at 2,296 ft (700 m) (Trenham et al. 
unpublished data). Trenham and Shaffer (unpublished manuscript) 
determined that conserving upland habitats within 2,200 ft (670 m) of 
breeding ponds would protect 95 percent of California tiger salamanders 
at their study location in Solano County. Based upon this information, 
we focused on protecting upland areas within 2,200 ft of a known 
breeding pond. Protecting an upland habitat area with a radius of 2,200 
ft around a single pond yields a minimum area of 350 ac, but depending 
on the size of the pond, can be more than that.
    We used 2,200 ft or 350 ac as a guide for the amount of upland 
habitat around known breeding locations to be mapped as critical 
habitat for the purposes of preserving California tiger salamanders 
within small mammal burrows (PCE 2). However, although the studies 
discussed above provide an approximation of the distances that 
California tiger salamanders can move from their breeding ponds in 
search of suitable upland refugia, we recognize that upland habitat 
features will influence California tiger salamander

[[Page 3073]]

movements in a particular landscape. Therefore, where we had site-
specific information on those features such as land use, topography, 
and geologic landform, we altered critical habitat lines to reflect 
that information. In some locations, we protected a shorter distance 
than 2,200 ft if: (1) Commercial or residential developed areas were 
present (e.g., Santa Maria); (2) the upland habitat was separated from 
the breeding habitat by a substantial barrier (e.g., State Highway 
101); (3) the habitat type within that distance was unsuitable for 
California tiger salamanders (e.g., hard chaparral); or (4) the area 
did not provide underground refugia because it could not support small 
mammal burrowing systems due to geological features such as fractured 
shales. We also excluded areas based on a combination of topography and 
geology. If soil and vegetative conditions are appropriate, California 
tiger salamanders can traverse areas of steep topography. Some steep 
areas do not support soils or vegetation that allow for California 
tiger salamanders to traverse. Therefore, we excluded areas that we 
know to be both steep and devoid of vegetation or burrowing mammal 
    In some cases, we extended the boundary of critical habitat beyond 
2,200 ft if (1) potential but unsurveyed breeding locations were 
present that would augment California tiger salamander populations; (2) 
no barriers to California tiger salamander dispersal were present and 
the habitat was suitable; (3) watershed boundaries for known breeding 
ponds exceed distances of 2,200 ft; or (4) the upland area between 
breeding ponds was conducive to California tiger salamander travel 
because dispersal between ponds within the units is essential for 
California tiger salamander gene flow.
    We excluded most areas of frequently harvested agricultural lands 
from the boundaries of critical habitat areas. Agricultural lands were 
only included if they were directly adjacent to known breeding ponds, 
thereby substantially reducing upland refugia for California tiger 
salamanders breeding in that pond, or were important for connectivity 
between known breeding locations, or in the case of the two units 
within the Santa Maria Valley, so little California tiger salamander 
upland habitat is left that restoration is necessary to provide 
sufficient upland refugia to sustain a population of adult California 
tiger salamanders.
    To determine the areas to be mapped within each unit for the 
purposes of dispersal (i.e., PCE 3), we used a distance of 0.70 mi 
(1,158 m) as a general guide. The only known study we are aware of that 
specifically investigated movement of California tiger salamanders 
between breeding ponds projected that 0.70 mi (1,158 m) would encompass 
99 percent of interpond dispersal (Trenham et al. 2000). However, we 
recognize that (as with movements in search of suitable underground 
refugia) upland habitat features influence California tiger salamander 
movements within a particular landscape. Thus, we altered critical 
habitat unit boundaries to reflect site specific knowledge where we had 
it. In some units, we protected a shorter dispersal distance than 0.70 
mi (1,158 m) for similar reasons as described for PCE 2 (e.g., barriers 
prevented movement, no ponds existed in a given direction).
    In one unit (the eastern Santa Maria Unit) we propose to include a 
dispersal corridor that extends a greater distance than 0.70 mi (1,158 
m) between breeding locations. Given the observations by S. Sweet (in 
litt. 1998), which detect an adult California tiger salamander 1.2 mi 
from the closest breeding location, and S. Orloff's (in litt. 2003) 
detections of hundreds of California tiger salamanders approximately 
0.5 mi from the closest breeding location, we determined the longer 
corridor within this unit was justified because of the relatively flat, 
barrier-free terrain between the breeding locations. We determined that 
the connection between the two known breeding areas is essential for 
the conservation of the California tiger salamander in this area, 
because without it these locations would become isolated and much more 
susceptible to extirpation.
    We are proposing to designate critical habitat on lands that are 
considered essential to the conservation of the California tiger 
salamander. These areas have the primary constituent elements described 
    All of the known locations for the California tiger salamander in 
Santa Barbara County occur on non-Federal and private lands. Section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act authorizes us to issue permits for the take of 
listed species incidental to otherwise lawful activities. An incidental 
take permit application must be supported by a habitat conservation 
plan (HCP) that identifies conservation measures that the permittee 
agrees to implement for the species to minimize and mitigate the 
impacts of the requested incidental take. We often exclude non-Federal 
public lands and private lands that are covered by an existing 
operative HCP and executed implementation agreement (IA) under section 
10(a)(1)(B) of the Act from designated critical habitat because the 
benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of inclusion as discussed 
in section 4(b)(2) of the Act. In the case of the California tiger 
salamander, no lands are covered by an existing operative HCP. We are 
aware of three HCPs under development; however, these draft HCPs are 
not proposed for exclusion because we have not yet made an initial 
determination that they meet our issuance criteria and are ready for 
public notice and comment.
    When defining critical habitat boundaries, we made an effort to 
exclude all developed areas, such as towns, housing developments, and 
other lands unlikely to contain primary constituent elements essential 
for California tiger salamander conservation. However, our minimum 
mapping unit does not exclude all developed lands, such as lands 
supporting outbuildings, paddocks, roads, paved areas, lawns, and other 
lands unlikely to contain the primary constituent elements. Federal 
actions limited to these areas would not trigger a section 7 
consultation, unless they affect the species and/or the primary 
constituent elements in adjacent critical habitat.
    In summary, we propose six areas where populations of California 
tiger salamander are known to occur as critical habitat because we 
believe protection of those areas is essential to the conservation of 
the species. We then mapped as critical habitat sufficient habitat to 
ensure the conservation of the California tiger salamander.

Special Management Considerations

    Management of the critical habitat areas in a manner that provides 
for the conservation of the California tiger salamander is essential. 
Areas in need of management include not only the immediate locations 
where the species may be present, but additional areas adjacent to 
these that can provide for normal population fluctuations that may 
occur in response to natural and unpredictable events. The California 
tiger salamander may be dependent upon habitat components beyond the 
immediate areas where individuals of the species occur, if these areas 
support the presence of small mammals or are important in maintaining 
ecological processes such as hydrology, expansion of distribution, 
recolonization, and maintenance of natural predator-prey relationships.
    Our recommendations for special management that is needed for the 
critical habitat of the California tiger salamander are:

[[Page 3074]]

    (1) Aquatic habitats should be free of non-native and introduced 
predators, such as bullfrogs and fish. We recommend that bullfrogs and 
fish within known or potential breeding ponds for the California tiger 
salamander should be removed. We recommend that human-made stockponds 
managed to prevent colonization by these predators.
    (2) Disturbance to aquatic habitats should be minimized during the 
breeding season to minimize disturbance to the California tiger 
salamander's more sensitive life stages, and to reduce sedimentation 
and erosion into water bodies. Researchers and monitors should only 
enter ponds during the breeding season when the conservation benefits 
of obtaining scientific information outweigh the negative effects of 
    (3) We recommend that stock pond maintenance occur after the 
breeding season.
    (4) Aquatic habitats should be protected from contamination by 
chemicals such as those used for agricultural purposes. Operators 
should use best management practices to avoid contaminating wetlands. 
Ranchers should avoid placing salt licks for livestock adjacent to 
breeding ponds.
    (5) Small mammal populations should be not be eliminated to provide 
California tiger salamanders with essential underground refugia used 
for foraging, protection from predators, and shelter from the elements.
    (6) Upland habitats between breeding ponds should be managed to 
allow for successful California tiger salamander dispersal and to 
minimize impassable barriers. Sources of mortality such as roads should 
be designed to allow for safe California tiger salamander passage.

Proposed Critical Habitat Designation

    We are proposing six units as critical habitat for the California 
tiger salamander. The critical habitat areas described below constitute 
our best assessment at this time of the areas essential for the 
conservation of the California tiger salamander. The six areas 
designated as critical habitat are: (1) Western Santa Maria/Orcutt; (2) 
eastern Santa Maria; (3) western Los Alamos/Careaga; (4) eastern Los 
Alamos; (5) Purisima Hills; and (6) Santa Rita.
    The approximate area encompassed within each proposed critical 
habitat unit is shown in Table 1.

   Table 1.--Critical Habitat Units Proposed for the California Tiger
      [Area estimates reflect all land within critical habitat unit
boundaries, not just the areas supporting primary constituent elements.]
              Critical habitat unit                  Acres     Hectares
1. Western Santa Maria/Orcutt...................       4,349       1,760
2. Eastern Santa Maria..........................       2,985       1,208
3. Western Los Alamos/Careaga...................       2,181         882
4. Eastern Los Alamos...........................       1,302         527
5. Purisima.....................................       2,359         955
6. Santa Rita...................................         744         301
    Total.......................................      13,920       5,633

The majority of these acres occur on privately owned land. We know of 
no Federal, State, tribal, or military lands within these boundaries. A 
small portion of land within the western Santa Maria/Orcutt Unit is 
owned by local jurisdictions, including the County of Santa Barbara and 
the Laguna County Sanitation District.
    Critical habitat includes California tiger salamander habitat 
throughout the species' range in Santa Barbara County, California. 
Brief descriptions of all units, and reasons why they are essential for 
the conservation of the California tiger salamander, are presented 
below. Each unit contains essential aquatic, upland, and dispersal 
habitat. Each unit is occupied by California tiger salamanders based 
upon observations recorded since 2000.

Unit 1: Western Santa Maria/Orcutt

    Unit 1 consists of 4,349 ac (1,760 ha) west and southwest of the 
City of Santa Maria, mostly in unincorporated areas of the County and 
the community of Orcutt. This area encompasses the known California 
tiger salamander breeding sites extending from the Casmalia Hills on 
the south to the Santa Maria Airport on the north and from west of 
Black Road eastward to Highway 135. The unit contains 11 known 
California tiger salamander breeding ponds and several water bodies 
that could potentially support breeding California tiger salamanders 
but that have never been surveyed.
    Seven of the known breeding ponds in this unit occur on the Orcutt 
Dune Sheet. The Orcutt Dune Sheet is an ancient windblown sand deposit 
that covers the southern one-half to two-thirds of the Santa Maria 
Valley (Hunt 1993). All natural California tiger salamander breeding 
sites occurring on the sheet are classified as dunal or deflation pools 
and ponds, a type of California tiger salamander breeding pond 
occurring only within the two units within the Santa Maria Valley. The 
four remaining known ponds occur along the base of the Casmalia Hills, 
just off the southwestern edge of the Orcutt Dune Sheet.
    Based on an examination of aerial photographs taken in the late 
1920's and late 1930's, the Orcutt Dune Sheet contained more potential 
breeding sites for California tiger salamanders than all other occupied 
habitat in Santa Barbara County combined. This area has suffered the 
greatest loss of potential California tiger salamander breeding and 
upland habitat. At least 500 vernal wetlands were present on the Orcutt 
Dune Sheet in 1938 aerial photographs, less than 150 were present in 
2000. This number of ponds represents a 75 percent loss of these 
habitats (Larry Hunt, biological consultant, pers. comm. 2003).
    Population growth and the concomitant residential and commercial 
development are the greatest threat to California tiger salamanders 
within this unit. The City of Santa Maria currently sustains a 
population of 82,148 people and is anticipated to reach a population of 
110,800 people by 2020, with an annual growth rate of 1.8 percent 
(Santa Barbara County Association of Governments 2002). Annexations to 
further development are proposed in the remaining California tiger 
salamander habitat (Marc Bierdzinski, Santa Maria Community Development 
Department 2003).
    Several development projects have been proposed within the Unit. 
The Santa Maria Airport District proposes to build a 400-ac (162-ha) 
research park and golf course just south of the airport on a parcel 
with three known California tiger salamander breeding ponds (Rincon 
2002). The Orcutt Community Plan identifies Key Site 22 as a site for 
60 percent buildout to a maximum of 3,000 units of dwellings (Santa 
Barbara County 2002). This site lies entirely within the critical 
habitat unit. Additional proposed development projects include Union 
Valley Parkway (City of Santa Maria 2003) and expansion of the Laguna 
County Sanitation District's wastewater treatment plan.
    This unit is essential to the conservation of the California tiger 
salamander because it constitutes the largest number of occupied ponds 
on the Orcutt Dune Sheet, a rare and disappearing habitat type. 
California tiger salamanders in this location may be adapted to unique 
conditions not found in other units. It is critical for the

[[Page 3075]]

conservation of the species to conserve the California tiger salamander 
within the range of habitat types where it is found in nature. 
Protecting a variety of habitat conditions will increase the ability of 
the species to survive stochastic events.
    This unit also requires special management to conserve California 
tiger salamanders. One pond is known to have introduced fish, another 
is subject to berm failure, and bullfrogs breed in close proximity to a 
third site. Addressing these threats through special management is 
essential for the conservation of the California tiger salamander.

Unit 2: Eastern Santa Maria

    This unit covers a portion of the eastern half of the Orcutt Dune 
Sheet, but is separated from the western Santa Maria Valley unit by a 
broad area of urban and agricultural development, including State 
Highways 135 and 101. The unit is 2,985 ac (1,208 ha) in size and is 
bordered by State Highway 101 on the west, the Solomon Hills on the 
south, the Sisquoc River on the east, and the Santa Maria River 
floodplain on the north. Although this area is at least as large as the 
area encompassed by the western Santa Maria Valley populations, only 
four known ponds exist here. All the ponds have had substantial 
alterations to the surrounding upland habitats, and substantial 
fragmentation of the habitat between breeding ponds has occurred. 
Restoration of upland habitat and the creation of additional breeding 
ponds within this unit will be essential to allow a self-sustaining 
California tiger salamander population to persist. At least 10 
additional ponds that appear suitable for California tiger salamander 
breeding exist within the unit.
    California tiger salamander upland habitat in this area has 
experienced widespread losses due to the conversion of rangeland for 
agricultural purposes. Some proposed projects further threaten the 
remaining California tiger salamander habitat, including the 2000-ac 
Bradley Ranch proposed development project (John L. Wallace & 
Associates 2002), scattered low-density residential development, two 
soil remediation projects, and the construction of a radio tower.
    All of the extant and most of the potential ponds lie on the Orcutt 
Dune Sheet at an average elevation of 530 ft above sea level (range = 
390-601 ft above sea level). Because this unit represents one of only 
two units on the Orcutt Dune sheet, it is essential to the conservation 
of the species in that California tiger salamanders here are adapted to 
conditions not found in two-thirds of its range. The unit requires 
special management in the form of restoration, erosion control, and 
implementation of measures to minimize the number of California tiger 
salamanders killed on roads. The unit also represents an area that in 
large part is not slated for residential development, in contrast to 
the western Santa Maria area. Because of this and the fact that many of 
the converted upland habitats remain as open space, this unit has high 
restoration potential.

Unit 3: Western Los Alamos/Careaga

    This unit consists of 2,181 ac (883 ha) to the west of Highway 101, 
bordered on the west by the Careaga Divide. This unit includes the 
location where the California tiger salamander was first discovered in 
Santa Barbara County in the 1960s. Nine ponds within this unit have 
been documented as breeding habitat by California tiger salamanders. 
Five of these ponds are natural ponds, three are human-made bermed 
agricultural/oil field impoundments, and one is a scour pool situated 
in a tributary to Canada de Las Flores Creek. Several other 
agricultural impoundments are located within dispersal distance of the 
California tiger salamander breeding ponds in the western Los Alamos 
valley. These human-made ponds may also be used by California tiger 
salamanders for breeding.
    In contrast to the dunal or deflation ponds found in the two units 
to the north within the Santa Maria Valley, the natural breeding ponds 
within the Western Los Alamos/Careaga Unit are found in structural 
basin ponds. These ponds occur in the valleys or depressions along the 
axes of the synclines. The natural ponds within the unit occur along 
the axis of the Los Alamos Syncline and an unnamed syncline occurring 
parallel to and west of the Los Alamos Syncline.
    The area in the southeastern half of the unit was proposed for 
conversion to vineyards. The landowner in this area supports California 
tiger salamander conservation and has been working with the lessee to 
develop a vineyard proposal that would conserve California tiger 
salamanders breeding in the known ponds.
    This unit is essential to the conservation of the California tiger 
salamander because it contains some of the highest-quality natural 
California tiger salamander breeding pools remaining in the County. The 
Careaga Divide pond, located on the western side of the unit, is one of 
the most unique and pristine vernal ponds where California tiger 
salamanders breed. The wetland is unusual in that it is enclosed on two 
sides by an extensive and dense coast live oak woodland and on the 
north and east by coastal sage scrub and grasslands. The unit also 
provides large blocks of continuous unfragmented upland habitat with 
few known sources of mortality, all occurring within a working 
rangeland landscape. The unit requires special management in the form 
of fish removal from at least one pond and sediment control at three 

Unit 4: Eastern Los Alamos

    This unit consists of 1,302 ac (527 ha) on the Los Robles Ranch, 
which is located south of Highway 101 and southeast of the town of Los 
Alamos. The population is currently comprised of four ponds that have 
been used by California tiger salamanders for breeding. Two of the 
ponds are natural structural basin ponds found in depressions that are 
believed to be associated with the inferred location of the Los Alamos 
Syncline (Dibblee 1993). The other two ponds are bermed agricultural 
impoundments located in an unnamed, intermittent drainage located 1.0 
to 1.5 mi southeast of the two natural ponds. Although there are three 
other unsurveyed human-made ponds in the immediate vicinity of the 
eastern Los Alamos population, only one is believed to have a 
hydrologic regime that could support breeding by California tiger 
salamanders. This bermed vineyard reservoir is located on the north 
side of the small hill that borders the northeast side of Los Robles 
Pond 1.
    The property within the Unit was purchased in the 1990s for the 
purpose of vineyard development. California tiger salamanders were 
discovered on the property shortly after the listing in 2000 (Monk and 
Associates 2000). The property owner approached us about developing an 
HCP to cover vineyard installation in 2001; however, we have not 
received a permit application pursuant to section 10(a)(1)(B) for the 
    Given the small number of known breeding populations, this unit is 
essential for the conservation of the California tiger salamander 
because, in spite of its location adjacent to State Highway 101, the 
habitat within this unit is of high quality. In addition, the 
contiguous block of habitat within the unit is free of fragmentation 
and is of sufficient size to maintain a self-sustaining population of 
California tiger salamanders. Furthermore, the populations within this 
unit constitute the easternmost location of the species.

[[Page 3076]]

As with the Western Lost Alamos/Careaga Unit, the natural ponds on the 
site are structural basin ponds formed by compressional forces between 
the transverse and coastal ranges.
    The unit requires special management in the form of maintenance of 
the two human-made breeding ponds, measures to reduce road mortality, 
and preservation of water quality.

Unit 5: Purisima Hills

    Unit 5 consists of 2,359 ac (955 ha) along the crest and south 
slope of the west-central portion of the Purisima Hills. The unit 
encompasses 14 of the 16 documented breeding ponds in the 
subpopulation. The portion of the Purisima Hills that contains suitable 
habitat lies upon the lower Careaga Formation, bounded to the east-
southeast by outcrops of Sisquoc Formation, and bounded to the west-
northwest by badlands topography of sandier horizons within the upper 
Careaga Formation. Neither the Sisquoc nor the upper Careaga formations 
will retain water in unlined ponds. Pond elevations range from 500 to 
1400 ft.
    The documented breeding localities are all stock ponds, most of 
which were constructed in the mid to late 1950s (Thomas Silva, Sr., 
pers. comm. 2001); of these, only one may have been based on a 
preexisting natural depression. The unit also contains a large natural 
vernal lake referred to as Laguna Seca. Although Laguna Seca did not 
contain California tiger salamanders during surveys conducted in 2002, 
it was likely the natural source of California tiger salamanders for 
the human-made ponds in the Purisima Hills to the south and southwest 
of the pond. Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and mosquitofish 
(Gambusia affinis) were recorded during surveys in 2002 (Paul Collins, 
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, pers. comm. 2002). The 
introduced fish likely preclude successful breeding, although adult 
California tiger salamanders are inevitably present in the adjacent 
uplands, given the successful breeding occurring in the other known 
ponds in the vicinity. We have been working with the landowners in this 
area on a proposed fish removal project. Based on present knowledge of 
the distribution and history of occupied ponds, the pattern of 
California tiger salamander presence in the ponds within the Purisima 
Hills indicates a considerable role for dispersing animals, as all 16 
localities have been colonized sometime in the past 40 to 50 years.
    This unit is essential for the conservation of the California tiger 
salamander. Although the majority of occupied ponds are human made and 
thus require frequent maintenance, the unit is the most remote of all 
the units and has the fewest documented threats. Because of the 
steepness of the topography, conversion to farmland or high-intensity 
development is not feasible. The unit is unique in that it is steeper 
terrain and is more densely vegetated than all other units. This 
location contains the only known California tiger salamander breeding 
ponds completely surrounded by coastal sage chaparral vegetation. Of 
the 16 ponds, 4 are surrounded by grasslands, 3 are enclosed in 
chaparral, and the remainder have mixed grassland/chaparral habitats 
within a 328-ft (100-m) radius (2 of these 9 also have oak woodland 
components). Few other locations in Santa Barbara are within chaparral 
or mixed chaparral habitats. Therefore, California tiger salamanders 
within this unit are adapted to unique habitat conditions.
    The Purisima Unit is also essential in that it provides a linkage 
between the Santa Rita Unit to the southwest and the Western Los 
Alamos/Careaga Unit to the north. Although many of the units may be 
permanently separated from each other by urban development and State 
Highway 101, these three units still likely retain some connectivity. 
Preliminary genetic analyses of five loci indicate high levels of gene 
exchange between the Purisima and Western Los Alamos units, despite a 
distance of almost 4 mi between these units (Wes Savage, University of 
California at Davis, unpublished data). Several stockponds which have 
never been surveyed lie between the units; some of these ponds are 
likely occupied by California tiger salamanders and provide genetic 
exchange between the two proposed critical habitat units. The Santa 
Rita Unit is a similar distance from the Purisima Unit, but appears to 
have slightly less genetic exchange than the other two units (W. 
Savage, unpublished data).
    The unit also requires special management. Because the ponds are 
human-made stock ponds, they are subject to failure. Two potential 
locations have breached dams and do not hold water, two are silted up, 
and four dry out soon after rainfall events. Special management can 
restore these ponds and augment the California tiger salamander 
populations within the unit. Special management is also needed to 
remove introduced fish from Laguna Seca.

Unit 6: Santa Rita Valley

    This 744-ac (301 ha) unit constitutes the southernmost locality for 
California tiger salamanders in Santa Barbara County. The unit is 
bisected by Highway 246, a heavily traveled thoroughfare between the 
towns of Buellton and Lompoc. Two confirmed breeding locations 
(representing three ponds) lie in the general Santa Rita Valley; 
however, one of these is a human-made pond isolated from other units 
and is not included within the boundaries of critical habitat. The 
other confirmed breeding locality consists of two hydrobasins within 50 
ft of one another and adjacent to Highway 246. Adult California tiger 
salamanders were often found dead on roads after rain events during the 
1980s. Three ponds on a neighboring property to the east and two ponds 
on the south side of Highway 246 likely formed a complex with this pond 
in the past; however, the ponds to the east were degraded by introduced 
fish and vineyards, while Highway 246 forms a substantial barrier to 
the southern ponds. The ponds south of Highway 246 have never been 
surveyed for California tiger salamanders. Although one landowner 
reported finding a California tiger salamander in a water pump in 2000, 
we have been unable to obtain permission to conduct surveys to confirm 
or refute this record.
    The known ponds are based on natural features developed on an 
active syncline in the Careaga Formation east of the Santa Rita-Drum 
Canyon divide along the north side of California Highway 246. The ponds 
are natural but have been excavated so that the smaller pond appears to 
retain water year round.
    This unit is essential to the conservation of the California tiger 
salamander because it constitutes the only extant population remaining 
within the Santa Rita valley. As stated previously, given the small 
number of remaining breeding locations, all six units are essential. In 
addition, due to the numbers of salamanders found dead on the roads in 
the 1980s, the ponds were likely productive in the past. Highway 246 
constitutes the main threat to the breeding location; furthermore, 
Caltrans has proposed to widen this road, which would substantially 
infringe upon the footprint of the ponds. Even without widening, the 
mortality by vehicular traffic and contaminated runoff entering the 
pond provide substantial threats to the breeding site.
    The unit requires special management. Based on past observations, 
mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) and sunfish (Lepomis spp.) occurred in 
these ponds (Service 2000). We do not know if fish currently exist in 
the ponds (the ponds dry completely

[[Page 3077]]

in most years); however, if they do, they should be removed to conserve 
this population. In addition, bullfrogs have also been reported (Grace 
McLaughlin, Service, pers. obs. 2000) and should also be removed. The 
precarious position of the pond directly adjacent to a busy road 
requires measures to reduce the threat contaminants entering the pond 
and to enhance survival of California tiger salamanders attempting to 
cross the road. In addition, connectivity to potential breeding 
locations to the south of the highway should be facilitated in some 
manner. The California tiger salamander science subteam of the recovery 
team recommends restoring or creating additional ponds in this unit, 
due to the risk of extinction associated with having only one breeding 
location. Because California tiger salamander population dynamics 
involve several connecting breeding populations, increasing the number 
of breeding ponds in this unit is necessary to conserve the population.

Effects of Critical Habitat Designation

Section 7 Consultation

    Section 7 of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to ensure that actions they fund, authorize, or carry out are 
not likely to destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. In our 
regulations at 50 CFR 402.02, we define destruction or adverse 
modification as ``a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably 
diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and 
recovery of a listed species. Such alterations include, but are not 
limited to: alterations adversely modifying any of those physical or 
biological features that were the basis for determining the habitat to 
be critical.'' However, in a March 15, 2001, decision of the United 
States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish 
and Wildlife Service et al., F.3d 434), the Court found our definition 
of destruction or adverse modification to be invalid. In response to 
this decision, we are reviewing the regulatory definition of adverse 
modification in relation to the conservation of the species. 
Individuals, organizations, States, local governments, and other non-
Federal entities are affected by the designation of critical habitat 
only if their actions occur on Federal lands, require a Federal permit, 
license, or other authorization, or involve Federal funding.
    Section 7(a) of the Act requires Federal agencies, including the 
Service, to evaluate their actions with respect to any species that is 
proposed or listed as endangered or threatened and with respect to its 
critical habitat, if any is proposed or designated. Regulations 
implementing this interagency cooperation provision of the Act are 
codified at 50 CFR part 402. Section 7(a)(4) of the Act requires 
Federal agencies to confer with us on any action that is likely to 
jeopardize the continued existence of a proposed species or result in 
destruction or adverse modification of proposed critical habitat. 
Conference reports provide conservation recommendations to assist the 
agency in eliminating conflicts that may be caused by the proposed 
action. The conservation recommendations in a conference report are 
advisory. If a species is listed or critical habitat is designated, 
section 7(a)(2) requires Federal agencies to ensure that activities 
they authorize, fund, or carry out are not likely to jeopardize the 
continued existence of such a species or to destroy or adversely modify 
its critical habitat. If a Federal action may affect a listed species 
or its critical habitat, the responsible Federal agency (action agency) 
must enter into consultation with us. Through this consultation, we 
would ensure that the permitted actions do not destroy or adversely 
modify critical habitat.
    When we issue a biological opinion concluding that a project is 
likely to result in the destruction or adverse modification of critical 
habitat, we also provide reasonable and prudent alternatives to the 
project, if any are identifiable. ``Reasonable and prudent 
alternatives'' are defined at 50 CFR 402.02 as alternative actions 
identified during consultation that can be implemented in a manner 
consistent with the intended purpose of the action, that are consistent 
with the scope of the Federal agency's legal authority and 
jurisdiction, that are economically and technologically feasible, and 
that the Director believes would avoid destruction or adverse 
modification of critical habitat. Reasonable and prudent alternatives 
can vary from slight project modifications to extensive redesign or 
relocation of the project. Costs associated with implementing a 
reasonable and prudent alternative are similarly variable.
    Regulations at 50 CFR 402.16 require Federal agencies to reinitiate 
consultation on previously reviewed actions in instances where critical 
habitat is subsequently designated and the Federal agency has retained 
discretionary involvement or control over the action or such 
discretionary involvement or control is authorized by law. 
Consequently, some Federal agencies may request reinitiation of 
consultation or conference with us on actions for which formal 
consultation has been completed, if those actions may affect designated 
critical habitat or adversely modify or destroy proposed critical 
habitat. Conference reports assist the agency in eliminating conflicts 
that may be caused by the proposed action, and may include 
recommendations on actions to eliminate conflicts with, or adverse 
modifications to, proposed critical habitat. The conservation 
recommendations in a conference report are advisory.
    We may issue a formal conference report if requested by a Federal 
agency. Formal conference reports on proposed critical habitat contain 
an opinion that is prepared according to 50 CFR 402.14, as if critical 
habitat were designated. We may adopt the formal conference report as 
the biological opinion when the critical habitat is designated, if no 
substantial new information or changes in the action alter the content 
of the opinion (see 50 CFR 402.10(d)).
    Activities on Federal lands that may affect the California tiger 
salamander or its critical habitat will require section 7 consultation. 
Activities on private or State lands requiring a permit from a Federal 
agency, such as a permit from the Army Corps under section 404 of the 
Clean Water Act, a section 10(a)(1)(B) permit from the Service, or some 
other Federal action, including funding (e.g., Federal Highway 
Administration or Federal Emergency Management Agency funding), will 
also continue to be subject to the section 7 consultation process. 
Federal actions not affecting listed species or critical habitat and 
actions on non-Federal and private lands that are not federally funded, 
authorized, or permitted do not require section 7 consultation.
    Section 4(b)(8) of the Act requires us to briefly evaluate and 
describe in any proposed or final regulation that designates critical 
habitat those activities involving a Federal action that may destroy or 
adversely modify such habitat, or that may be affected by such 
designation. Activities that may destroy or adversely modify critical 
habitat include those that appreciably reduce the value of critical 
habitat for both the survival and recovery of the California tiger 
salamander. Within critical habitat, this pertains only to those areas 
containing primary constituent elements. We note that such activities 
may also jeopardize the continued existence of the species.
    To properly portray the effects of critical habitat designation, we 
must first compare the section 7 requirements for actions that may 
affect critical habitat with the requirements for actions that may 
affect a listed species.

[[Page 3078]]

Section 7 prohibits actions funded, authorized, or carried out by 
Federal agencies from jeopardizing the continued existence of a listed 
species or destroying or adversely modifying the listed species' 
critical habitat. Actions likely to ``jeopardize the continued 
existence'' of a species are those that would appreciably reduce the 
likelihood of the species' survival and recovery. Actions likely to 
``destroy or adversely modify'' critical habitat are those that would 
appreciably reduce the value of critical habitat for the survival and 
recovery of the listed species.
    Common to both definitions is an appreciable detrimental effect on 
both survival and recovery of a listed species. Given the similarity of 
these definitions, actions likely to destroy or adversely modify 
critical habitat would almost always result in jeopardy to the species 
concerned, particularly when the area of the proposed action is 
occupied by the species concerned. Designation of critical habitat in 
areas occupied by the California tiger salamander is not likely to 
result in a regulatory burden above that already in place due to the 
presence of the listed species.
    Federal agencies already consult with us on activities in areas 
currently occupied by the species to ensure that their actions do not 
jeopardize the continued existence of the species. These actions 
include, but are not limited to:
    (1) Regulation of activities affecting waters of the United States 
by the Army Corps under section 404 of the Clean Water Act;
    (2) Regulation of water flows, damming, diversion, and 
channelization by any Federal agency;
    (3) Road construction and maintenance, right-of-way designation, 
and regulation funded or permitted by the Federal Highway 
    (4) Voluntary conservation measures by private landowners funded by 
the Natural Resources Conservation Service;
    (5) Regulation of airport improvement activities by the Federal 
Aviation Administration;
    (6) Licensing of construction of communication sites by the Federal 
Communications Commission; and,
    (7) Funding of activities by the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency, Department of Energy, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 
Federal Highway Administration, or any other Federal agency.
    All lands proposed for designation as critical habitat are within 
the geographic area occupied by the species (based on observations made 
within the last 3 years), and are likely to be used by the California 
tiger salamander, whether for foraging, breeding, growth of larvae and 
juveniles, dispersal, migration, genetic exchange, or sheltering. Thus, 
we consider all critical habitat units to be occupied by the species. 
Federal agencies already consult with us on activities in areas 
currently occupied by the species or if the species may be affected by 
the action to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize the continued 
existence of the species. Therefore, we believe that the designation of 
critical habitat is not likely to result in a significant regulatory 
burden above that already in place due to the presence of the listed 
species. Few additional consultations are likely to be conducted due to 
the designation of critical habitat. Nevertheless, at any given time 
some portions of a unit may not be occupied by California tiger 
salamanders, due to climatic fluctuations, changes in population 
numbers, flood events, or other causes. Additional consultations could 
arise if a project is proposed within an unoccupied portion of a 
critical habitat unit and the primary constituent elements may be 
adversely affected by the project.

Application of Section 3(5)(A) and Exclusions Under Section 4(b)(2) of 
the Act

    Section 3(5)(A) of the Act defines critical habitat as the specific 
areas within the geographic area occupied by the species on which are 
found those physical and biological features (I) essential to the 
conservation of the species and (II) which may require special 
management considerations and protection. As such, for an area to be 
designated as critical habitat for a species, it must meet both 
provisions of the definition. In those cases where a specific area does 
not provide those physical and biological features essential to the 
conservation of the species, it has been our policy to not include the 
area in designated critical habitat. Likewise, if an area determined to 
be biologically essential has an adequate management plan that covers 
the species, then special management and protection are already being 
provided. These areas would not meet the second provision of the 
definition and would not be proposed as critical habitat.
    We consider a current plan to provide adequate management or 
protection if it meets three criteria: (1) The plan is complete and 
provides a conservation benefit to the species (i.e., the plan must 
maintain or provide for an increase in the species' population, or the 
enhancement or restoration of its habitat within the area covered by 
the plan); (2) the plan provides assurances that the conservation 
management strategies and actions will be implemented (i.e., those 
responsible for implementing the plan are capable of accomplishing the 
objectives, and have an implementation schedule or adequate funding for 
implementing the management plan); and (3) the plan provides assurances 
that the conservation strategies and measures will be effective (i.e., 
it identifies biological goals, has provisions for reporting progress, 
and is of a duration sufficient to implement the plan and achieve the 
plan's goals and objectives).
    Further, section 4(b)(2) of the Act states that critical habitat 
shall be designated, and revised, on the basis of the best available 
scientific data after taking into consideration the economic impact, 
and any other relevant impact, of specifying any particular area as 
critical habitat. An area may be excluded from critical habitat if it 
is determined that the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of 
specifying a particular area as critical habitat, unless the failure to 
designate such area as critical habitat will result in the extinction 
of the species. Consequently, we may exclude an area from critical 
habitat based on economic impacts, or other relevant impacts such as 
preservation of conservation partnerships or military readiness 
considerations, if we determine that the benefits of excluding an area 
from critical habitat outweigh the benefits of including the area in 
critical habitat, provided that exclusion will not result in the 
extinction of the species.
    In summary, we use both the definitions in section 3(5)(A) and the 
provisions of section 4(b)(2) of the Act to evaluate those specific 
areas that are proposed for designation as critical habitat as well as 
for those areas that are subsequently finalized (i.e., designated as 
critical habitat). On that basis, it has been our policy to not include 
in proposed critical habitat, or exclude from designated critical 
habitat, those areas: (1) Not biologically essential to the 
conservation of a species, (2) covered by an individual (project-
specific) or regional Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that covers the 
subject species, (3) covered by a complete and approved Integrated 
Natural Resource Management Plan (INRMP) for specific DOD 
installations, (4) covered by an adequate management plan or agreement 
that protects the primary constituent elements of the habitat.
    We have not excluded any lands from this proposal pursuant to 
section 3(5)(A) and 4(b)(2) of the Act. No HCPs that

[[Page 3079]]

include the California tiger salamander are near completion, the 
proposal does not include any DOD installations, and no management 
plans that protect the California tiger salamander have been developed. 
During the proposal period, we hope to work with private landowners on 
developing conservation agreements that would protect the species. If 
these are finalized, we may exclude them from final critical habitat 
for the California tiger salamander.

Economic Analysis

    Section 4(b)(2) of the Act requires us to designate critical 
habitat on the basis of the best scientific and commercial information 
available and to consider the economic and other relevant impacts of 
designating a particular area as critical habitat. We may exclude areas 
from critical habitat upon a determination that the benefits of such 
exclusions outweigh the benefits of specifying such areas as part of 
critical habitat. We cannot exclude such areas from critical habitat if 
such exclusion would result in the extinction of the species.
    An analysis of the economic impacts of proposing critical habitat 
for the California tiger salamander is being prepared. We will announce 
the availability of the draft economic analysis as soon as it is 
completed, at which time we will seek public review and comment. At 
that time, copies of the draft economic analysis will be available for 
downloading from the Internet at http://ventura.fws.gov, or by 

contacting the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office directly (see ADDRESSES 

Peer Review

    In accordance with our joint policy published in the Federal 
Register on July 1, 1994 (59 FR 34270), we will seek the expert 
opinions of at least three appropriate and independent specialists 
regarding this proposed rule. The purpose of such review is to ensure 
that our critical habitat designation is based on scientifically sound 
data, assumptions, and analyses. We will send these peer reviewers 
copies of this proposed rule immediately following publication in the 
Federal Register. We will invite these peer reviewers to comment, 
during the public comment period, on the specific assumptions and 
conclusions regarding the proposed designation of critical habitat.
    We will consider all comments and information received during the 
comment period on this proposed rule during preparation of a final 
rulemaking. Accordingly, the final decision may differ from this 

Public Hearings

    The Act provides for one or more public hearings on this proposal, 
if requested. Requests for public hearings must be made in writing at 
least 15 days prior to the close of the public comment period. We will 
schedule public hearings on this proposal, if any are requested, and 
announce the dates, times, and places of those hearings in the Federal 
Register and local newspapers at least 15 days prior to the first 

Clarity of the Rule

    Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write regulations and 
notices that are easy to understand. We invite your comments on how to 
make this proposed rule easier to understand, including answers to 
questions such as the following: (1) Are the requirements in the 
proposed rule clearly stated? (2) Does the proposed rule contain 
technical jargon that interferes with the clarity? (3) Does the format 
of the proposed rule (grouping and order of the sections, use of 
headings, paragraphing, and so forth) aid or reduce its clarity? (4) Is 
the description of the notice in the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section 
of the preamble helpful in understanding the proposed rule? (5) What 
else could we do to make this proposed rule easier to understand?
    Send a copy of any comments on how we could make this proposed rule 
easier to understand to: Office of Regulatory Affairs, Department of 
the Interior, Room 7229, 1849 C Street, NW., Washington, DC 20240. You 
may e-mail your comments to this address: Exsec@ios.doi.gov.

Required Determinations

Regulatory Planning and Review

    This document has been reviewed by the Office of Management and 
Budget (OMB), in accordance with Executive Order 12866. OMB makes the 
final determination under Executive Order 12866. We are preparing a 
draft economic analysis of this proposed action, which will be 
available for public comment, to determine the economic consequences of 
designating the specific area as critical habitat.
    Within these areas, the types of Federal actions or authorized 
activities that we have identified as potential concerns are:
    (1) Regulation of activities affecting waters of the United States 
by the Army Corps under section 404 of the Clean Water Act;
    (2) Regulation of water flows, damming, diversion, and 
channelization by any Federal agency;
    (3) Road construction and maintenance, right-of-way designation, 
and regulation funded or permitted by the Federal Highways 
    (4) Voluntary conservation measures by private landowners funded by 
the Natural Resources Conservation Service;
    (5) Regulation of airport improvement activities by the Federal 
Aviation Administration;
    (6) Licensing of construction of communication sites by the Federal 
Communications Commission; and,
    (7) Funding of activities by the U.S. Environmental Protection 
Agency, Department of Energy, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 
Federal Highway Administration, or any other Federal agency.
    The availability of the draft economic analysis will be announced 
in the Federal Register and in local newspapers so that it is available 
for public review and comments.

Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.)

    Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., as 
amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice 
of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effects of the rule on small entities (i.e., small 
businesses, small organizations, and small government jurisdictions). 
However, no regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of 
the agency certifies the rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities. The SBREFA amended 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA) to require Federal agencies to 
provide a statement of the factual basis for certifying that the rule 
will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. However, the SBREFA does not explicitly define 
``substantial number'' or ``significant economic impact.'' 
Consequently, to assess whether a ``substantial number'' of small 
entities is affected by this designation, this analysis considers the 
relative number of small entities likely to be impacted in an area. The 
SBREFA also amended the RFA to require a certification statement. We 
are hereby certifying that this proposed rule will not have a 
significant effect on a substantial number of small entities.
    According to the Small Business Administration, small entities 
include small organizations, such as independent nonprofit 

[[Page 3080]]

and small governmental jurisdictions, including school boards and city 
and town governments that serve fewer than 50,000 residents, as well as 
small businesses (13 CFR 121.201). Small businesses include 
manufacturing and mining concerns with fewer than 500 employees, 
wholesale trade entities with fewer than 100 employees, retail and 
service businesses with less than $5 million in annual sales, general 
and heavy construction businesses with less than $27.5 million in 
annual business, special trade contractors doing less than $11.5 
million in annual business, and agricultural businesses with annual 
sales less than $750,000. To determine if potential economic impacts to 
these small entities are significant, we considered the types of 
activities that might trigger regulatory impacts under this rule as 
well as the types of project modifications that may result. In general, 
the term significant economic impact is meant to apply to a typical 
small business firm's business operations.
    To determine if the rule would affect a substantial number of small 
entities, we considered the number of small entities affected within 
particular types of economic activities (e.g., housing development, 
grazing, oil and gas production, timber harvesting, etc.). We 
considered each industry individually to determine if certification is 
appropriate. In estimating the numbers of small entities potentially 
affected, we also considered whether their activities have any Federal 
involvement; some kinds of activities are unlikely to have any Federal 
involvement and so will not be affected by critical habitat 
designation. Designation of critical habitat only affects activities 
conducted, funded, or permitted by Federal agencies; non-Federal 
activities are not affected by the designation.
    If this critical habitat designation is finalized, Federal agencies 
must consult with us if their activities may affect designated critical 
habitat. Consultations to avoid the destruction or adverse modification 
of critical habitat would be incorporated into the existing 
consultation process.
    Since the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California tiger 
salamander was listed (2000), we have conducted approximately five 
formal consultations involving this species. These formal 
consultations, which all involved Federal actions, included a sewer 
line installation, an expansion and upgrade of wastewater treatment 
facilities, pond restoration activities, one bridge replacement, and 
one culvert removal. These five consultations resulted in non-jeopardy 
biological opinions.
    We also conducted approximately 21 informal consultations since 
this species was listed. These informal consultations concerned 
activities such as repair, maintenance, or improvement of drainage and 
wastewater treatment facilities, cleanup of a superfund facility, 
closed landfill repair activities, soil remediation activities, oil 
well and sump closures, vineyard development, and other developments 
authorized by various federal agencies or review of National Pollution 
Discharge Elimination System permit applications to State water quality 
agencies by developers, municipalities, mines, businesses, and others. 
Informal consultations regarding the California tiger salamander 
usually resulted in recommendations to employ erosion control measures, 
conduct certain activities by hand, and avoid small mammal burrows, 
relied on current State water quality standards for protection of water 
quality, and resulted in little to no modification of the proposed 
activities. In reviewing these past informal consultations and the 
activities involved in light of proposed critical habitat, we do not 
believe the outcomes would have been different in areas designated as 
critical habitat.
    In summary, we have considered whether this proposed designation 
would result in a significant economic impact on a substantial number 
of small entities, and we have concluded that it would not. Future 
consultations are not likely to affect a substantial number of small 
entities. We have no indication that the types of activities we review 
under section 7 of the Act will change significantly in the future. 
There would be no additional section 7 consultations resulting from 
this rule as all six of the proposed critical habitat units are 
currently occupied by California tiger salamanders, and the 
consultation requirement would be triggered by the presence of a listed 
    This rule would result in major project modifications only when 
proposed activities with a Federal nexus would destroy or adversely 
modify critical habitat. While this may occur, it is not expected to 
occur frequently enough to affect a substantial number of small 
entities. Therefore, we are certifying that the proposed designation of 
critical habitat for the Santa Barbara County DPS of the California 
tiger salamander will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities, and an initial regulatory 
flexibility analysis is not required. This determination will be 
revisited after the close of the comment period and revised, if 
necessary, in the final rule.
    This discussion is based upon the information regarding potential 
economic impact that is available to us at this time. This assessment 
of economic effect may be modified prior to final rulemaking based upon 
review of the draft economic analysis prepared pursuant to section 
4(b)(2) of the ESA and E.O. 12866. This analysis is for the purposes of 
compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act and does not reflect our 
position on the type of economic analysis required by New Mexico Cattle 
Growers Assn. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 248 F.3d 1277 (10th Cir. 

Executive Order 13211

    On May 18, 2001, the President issued an Executive Order (E.O. 
13211) on regulations that significantly affect energy supply, 
distribution, and use. Executive Order 13211 requires agencies to 
prepare Statements of Energy Effects when undertaking certain actions. 
This proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the California 
tiger salamander is not a significant regulatory action under Executive 
Order 12866, and it is not expected to significantly affect energy 
supplies, distribution, or use. Therefore, this action is not a 
significant energy action and no Statement of Energy Effects is 

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 et seq.)

    In accordance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (2 U.S.C. 1501 
et seq.), we will use the economic analysis to further evaluate this 


    In accordance with Executive Order 12630, the rule does not have 
significant takings implications. A takings implication assessment is 
not required. The designation of critical habitat affects only Federal 
agency actions. The rule will not increase or decrease the current 
restrictions on private property concerning take of the California 
tiger salamander. Due to current public knowledge of the species' 
protection, the prohibition against take of the species both within and 
outside of the designated areas, and the fact that critical habitat 
provides no incremental restrictions, we do not anticipate that 
property values will be affected by the proposed critical habitat 
designation. While real estate market values may temporarily decline 
following designation, due to the perception that critical habitat 
designation may impose additional regulatory burdens on land use, we 
expect any such impacts to be short term. Additionally, critical 

[[Page 3081]]

designation does not preclude development of HCPs and issuance of 
incidental take permits. Owners of areas that are included in the 
designated critical habitat will continue to have opportunity to use 
their property in ways consistent with the survival of the California 
tiger salamander.


    In accordance with Executive Order 13132, the rule does not have 
significant Federalism effects. A Federalism assessment is not 
required. In keeping with DOI and Department of Commerce policy, we 
requested information from, and coordinated development of, this 
proposed critical habitat designation with appropriate State resource 
agencies in California. The designation of critical habitat in areas 
currently occupied by the California tiger salamander imposes no 
additional restrictions to those currently in place and, therefore, has 
little incremental impact on State and local governments and their 
activities. The designation may have some benefit to these governments 
in that the areas essential to the conservation of the species are more 
clearly defined, and the primary constituent elements of the habitat 
necessary to the survival of the species are specifically identified. 
While making this definition and identification does not alter where 
and what federally sponsored activities may occur, it may assist these 
local governments in long-range planning (rather than waiting for case-
by-case section 7 consultations to occur).

Civil Justice Reform

    In accordance with Executive Order 12988, the Office of the 
Solicitor has determined that the rule does not unduly burden the 
judicial system and meets the requirements of sections 3(a) and 3(b)(2) 
of the Order. We have proposed designating critical habitat in 
accordance with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. This 
proposed rule uses standard property descriptions and identifies the 
primary constituent elements within the designated areas to assist the 
public in understanding the habitat needs of the California tiger 

Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

    This rule does not contain any new collections of information that 
require approval by OMB under the Paperwork Reduction Act. This rule 
will not impose recordkeeping or reporting requirements on State or 
local governments, individuals, businesses, or organizations. An agency 
may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, 
a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB 
control number.

National Environmental Policy Act

    We have determined that we do not need to prepare an Environmental 
Assessment and/or an Environmental Impact Statement as defined by the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 in connection with 
regulations adopted pursuant to section 4(a) of the Act. We published a 
notice outlining our reasons for this determination in the Federal 
Register on October 25, 1983 (48 FR 49244). This final determination 
does not constitute a major Federal action significantly affecting the 
quality of the human environment.

Government-to-Government Relationship With Tribes

    In accordance with the President's memorandum of April 29, 1994, 
``Government-to-Government Relations with Native American Tribal 
Governments'' (59 FR 22951), Executive Order 13175, and the Department 
of Interior's manual at 512 DM 2, we readily acknowledge our 
responsibility to communicate meaningfully with recognized Federal 
Tribes on a government-to-government basis. We have determined that 
there are no tribal lands essential for the conservation of the 
California tiger salamander. Therefore, designation of critical habitat 
for the California tiger salamander has not been designated on Tribal 

References Cited

    A complete list of all references cited in this rulemaking is 
available upon request from the Field Supervisor, Ventura Fish and 
Wildlife Office (see ADDRESSES section).


    The primary author of this package is the Ventura Fish and Wildlife 
Office staff.

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 17

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Reporting and 
recordkeeping requirements, Transportation.

Proposed Regulation Promulgation

    Accordingly, we propose to amend part 17, subchapter B of chapter 
I, title 50 of the Code of Federal Regulations, as set forth below:


    1. The authority citation for part 17 continues to read as follows:

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1361-1407; 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544; 16 U.S.C. 
4201-4245; Pub. L. 99-625, 100 Stat. 3500; unless otherwise noted.

    2. In Sec.  17.11(h), revise the entry for ``Salamander, California 
tiger, Santa Barbara County DPS'' under ``AMPHIBIANS'' to read as 

Sec.  17.11  Endangered and threatened wildlife.

* * * * *
    (h) * * *

                     Species                                              Vertebrate
--------------------------------------------------                     population where                                                        Special
                                                     Historic range     endangered or       Status        When listed      Critical habitat     rules
          Common name            Scientific name                          threatened

                                                                      * * * * * * *

                                                                      * * * * * * *
Salamander, California tiger,   Ambystoma          U.S.A. (CA)......  Entire...........  E             677E, 702........  17.95(d).........           NA
 Santa Barbara County DPS.       californiense.

                                                                      * * * * * * *

[[Page 3082]]

    3. In Sec.  17.95(d), revise the entry for ``Ambystoma 
californiense'' under ``AMPHIBIANS'' to read as follows:

Sec.  17.95  Critical habitat--fish and wildlife.

* * * * *
    (d) Amphibians.
* * * * *
Santa Barbara County Distinct Population Segment of the California 
Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense)
    (1) Critical habitat units are depicted for Santa Barbara County, 
California, on the maps below.
    (2) The primary constituent elements of critical habitat for the 
Santa Barbara County Distinct Population Segment of the California 
tiger salamander are the habitat components that provide:
    (i) Standing bodies of fresh water, including natural and man-made 
(e.g., stock) ponds, vernal pools, and dune ponds, and other ephemeral 
or permanent water bodies that typically become inundated during winter 
rains and hold water for a sufficient length of time (i.e., 12 weeks) 
necessary for the species to complete the aquatic portion of its life 
    (ii) Barrier-free uplands adjacent to breeding ponds that contain 
small mammal burrows, including but not limited to burrows created by 
the California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beecheyi) and Botta's 
pocket gopher (Thommomys bottae). Small mammals are essential in 
creating the underground habitat that adult California tiger 
salamanders depend upon for food, shelter, and protection from the 
elements and predation.
    (iii) Upland areas between breeding locations and areas with small 
mammal burrows that allow for dispersal among such sites.
    (3) Critical habitat does not include existing features and 
structures, such as buildings, aqueducts, airports, roads, and other 
developed areas not containing one or more of the primary constituent 

Critical Habitat Map Units

    (4) Data layers defining map units were created on a base of USGS 
7.5' quadrangles, and critical habitat units were then mapped using 
Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) coordinates.

    (5) Note: Map 1 (index map) follows.

[[Page 3083]]



[[Page 3084]]

    (6) Unit 1: Western Santa Maria/Orcutt Unit, Santa Barbara County, 

    (i) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle maps Guadalupe, Santa 
Maria, Orcutt and Casmalia. Lands bounded by UTM Zone 10, NAD 1927 
coordinates (E, N): 727900, 3864900; 728200, 3864800; 729400, 3864600; 
729400, 3864100; 729600, 3864100; 729600, 3864000; 729900, 3864000; 
729900, 3864300; 730100, 3864100; 730300, 3864100; 730400, 3864200; 
730900, 3864200; 731000, 3864000; 731200, 3864000; 731300, 3864100; 
731700, 3863800; 731700, 3863700; 733500, 3863700; 733600, 3863900; 
733700, 3864100; 733700, 3864200; 734400, 3864200; 734400, 3862400; 
733000, 3862400; 733000, 3862300; 732800, 3862300; 732700, 3862400; 
731800, 3862400; 731800, 3862100; 732000, 3862100; 732000, 3861800; 
731800, 3861800; 731800, 3861600; 731500, 3861500; 731200, 3861600; 
731300, 3861800; 730700, 3862000; 730600, 3862000; 730500, 3861800; 
730100, 3862000; 729800, 3862100; 728900, 3862500; 728800, 3862500; 
728600, 3862300; 728500, 3862200; 728300, 3862100; 727500, 3862100; 
727200, 3861800; 726900, 3861400; 726800, 3861700; 726700, 3861900; 
726500, 3862100; 726400, 3862300; 726100, 3862400; 725900, 3862700; 
725800, 3862900; 725900, 3863100; 726200, 3863300; 726400, 3863600; 
726400, 3864000; 726500, 3864300; 726500, 3864700; 726600, 3864800; 
726700, 3864900; 727900, 3864900.

    (ii) Note: Unit 1 (Map 2) follows.

[[Page 3085]]



[[Page 3086]]

    (7) Unit 2: Eastern Santa Maria Unit, Santa Barbara County, 

    (i) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle maps Guadalupe, Santa 
Maria, Twitchell Dam, Orcutt and Sisquoc. Lands bounded by UTM Zone 10, 
NAD 1927 coordinates (E, N): 737400, 3864500; 737500, 3864600; 737400, 
3864700; 737400, 3864800; 737500, 3864800; 737800, 3865100; 739600, 
3865100; 739600, 3864300; 742500, 3864300; 742900, 3864000; 742800, 
3863700; 742900, 3863500; 743000, 3863200; 743100, 3863000; 743200, 
3862900; 743300, 3862800; 743400, 3862600; 743600, 3862300; 743700, 
3862200; 743700, 3861800; 743500, 3861700; 743400, 3861600; 743200, 
3861500; 743100, 3861300; 743000, 3861100; 742800, 3861000; 742500, 
3861100; 741200, 3861100; 741200, 3861500; 740900, 3861500; 740900, 
3861900; 740700, 3862100; 740400, 3862500; 740300,3862700; 
740300,3863100; 738600, 3863500; 738500, 3863700; 738000, 3864200; 
737800, 3864200; 737700, 3864300; 737600, 3864400; 737500, 3864400; 
737400, 3864500.

    (ii) Note: Unit 2 (Map 3) follows.

[[Page 3087]]



[[Page 3088]]

    (8) Unit 3: Western Los Alamos/Careaga Unit, Santa Barbara County, 

    (i) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle maps Orcutt and Sisquoc. 
Lands bounded by UTM Zone 10, NAD 1927 coordinates (E, N): 739900, 
3853000; 740200, 3853300; 740200, 3853700; 740100, 3853800; 740200, 
3853900; 740300, 3853900; 740300, 3854100; 740200, 3854300; 740100, 
3854500; 740100, 3854600; 740000, 3854600; 740000, 3854700; 740100, 
3854800; 740200, 3855000; 740300, 3855100; 740400, 3855000; 740500, 
3855000; 740600, 3854900; 741000, 3854800; 741300, 3854700; 741700, 
3854600; 741800, 3854200; 741900, 3853900; 742000, 3853800; 742100, 
3853600; 742300, 3853400; 742400, 3853600; 742600, 3853600; 742700, 
3853500; 742700, 3853600; 742800, 3853700; 742900, 3853600; 743000, 
3853500; 743100, 3853600; 743100, 3853700; 743200, 3853700; 743300, 
3853900; 743400, 3853700; 743600, 3853500; 743700, 3853300; 743900, 
3853100; 744200, 3852900; 744700, 3852600; 745200, 3852300; 745500, 
3852100; 745600, 3852000; 745600, 3851900; 745500, 3851700; 745500, 
3851500; 745400, 3851300; 745300, 3851300; 745200, 3851200; 745100, 
3851200; 745000, 3851300; 744800, 3851500; 744500, 3851500; 744400, 
3851600; 744300, 3851600; 744200, 3851700; 744100, 3851700; 744000, 
3851800; 743000, 3851800; 742700, 3852100; 742600, 3852200; 742600, 
3852300; 742500, 3852300; 742400, 3852200; 742300, 3852100; 742000, 
3852100; 741800, 3852200; 741700, 3852200; 741600, 3852300; 741500, 
3852300; 741400, 3852400; 741200, 3852500; 741000, 3852800; 740900, 
3852900; 740600, 3852900; 740200, 3852800; 740000, 3852700; 739900, 
3852800; 739900, 3853000.

    (ii) Note: Unit 3 (Map 4) follows.

[[Page 3089]]



[[Page 3090]]

    (9) Unit 4: Eastern Los Alamos Unit, Santa Barbara County, 

    (i) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle maps Los Alamos and Zaca 
Creek. Lands bounded by UTM Zone 10, NAD 1927 coordinates (E, N): 
750500, 3846400; 750200, 3846600; 750200, 3847200; 750600, 3847200; 
751100, 3847100; 751900, 3847000; 752000, 3847000; 752400, 3846900; 
752600, 3846800; 753900, 3846200; 754000, 3846200; 754000, 3845900; 
754100, 3845300; 754200, 3845200; 754100, 3845100; 753900, 3845100; 
753900, 3844900; 753800, 3845000; 753600, 3844800; 753500, 3845200; 
753300, 3845200; 753300, 3845300; 753200, 3845400; 753100, 3845400; 
753000, 3845500; 752900, 3845500; 753000, 3845400; 752900, 3845300; 
752900, 3845200; 752800, 3845200; 752800, 3845300; 752600, 3845300; 
752600, 3845400; 752500, 3845500; 752300, 3845500; 751700, 3845500; 
751700, 3845200; 751300, 3845400; 751100, 3845600; 751000, 3845600; 
750900, 3845500; 750800, 3845800; 750500, 3845900; 750500, 3846000; 
750400, 3846000; 750400, 3846100; 750500, 3846100; 750500, 3846400.

    (ii) Note: Unit 4 (Map 5) follows.

[[Page 3091]]



[[Page 3092]]

    (10) Units 5 and 6: The Purisima Hills and Santa Rita Units, Santa 
Barbara County, California.

    (i) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle maps Lompoc and Los Alamos. 
Lands bounded by UTM Zone 10, NAD 1927 coordinates (E, N): 740300, 
3843800; 740400, 3844100; 740400, 3844200; 740500, 3844400; 740500, 
3844600; 740600, 3845000; 740700, 3845000; 741200, 3845100; 741400, 
3845100; 741500, 3845100; 741600, 3844900; 742100, 3844900; 742200, 
3844900; 742400, 3845000; 742600, 3845200; 742700, 3845400; 742700, 
3845500; 742600, 3845600; 742600, 3845700; 742700, 3845800; 742900, 
3845800; 743000, 3845800; 743400, 3845900; 743500, 3846000; 743600, 
3846000; 743700, 3845900; 743800, 3845900; 743800, 3845800; 743900, 
3845700; 743900, 3845600; 743800, 3845400; 743800, 3845300; 743800, 
3844800; 743900, 3844600; 744000, 3844500; 744100, 3844500; 744200, 
3844700; 744300, 3844800; 744400, 3844800; 744500, 3844700; 744500, 
3844400; 744400, 3844300; 744400, 3844100; 744300, 3844000; 744300, 
3843900; 744400, 3843900; 744400, 3843800; 744300, 3843700; 744200, 
3843700; 744100, 3843600; 743500, 3843600; 743400, 3843500; 743200, 
3843400; 743000, 3843300; 742900, 3843200; 742800, 3843000; 742800, 
3842900; 742900, 3842800; 742800, 3842700; 742700, 3842600; 742500, 
3842400; 742500, 3842300; 742400, 3842200; 742400, 3842100; 742300, 
3842000; 742200, 3842000; 742200, 3842100; 742100, 3842300; 742000, 
3842400; 741900, 3842300; 741900, 3842200; 741800, 3842200; 741700, 
3842100; 741600, 3842100; 741500, 3842200; 741200, 3842300; 741000, 
3842300; 740900, 3842500; 740800, 3842600; 740700, 3842700; 740400, 
3843000; 740300, 3843200; 740300, 3843800.
    (ii) From USGS 1:24,000 scale quadrangle map Los Alamos. Lands 
bounded by UTM Zone 10, NAD 1927 coordinates (E, N): 745900, 3837900; 
746000, 3837800; 746100, 3837800; 746300, 3838000; 746500, 3837900; 
746700, 3838000; 746700, 3838100; 746800, 3838200; 746900, 3838200; 
747000, 3838300; 747200, 3838400; 747300, 3838300; 747200, 3837900; 
747100, 3837500; 747000, 3837500; 746900, 3837300; 746900, 3837100; 
747000, 3836900; 747400, 3836500; 747700, 3836300; 747900, 3836200; 
747700, 3836000; 747600, 3836000; 747300, 3835700; 747200, 3835700; 
746800, 3835700; 746600, 3835900; 746300, 3836100; 746100, 3836100; 
745800, 3836700; 745800, 3837400; 745900, 3837900.

    (iii) Note: Units 5 and 6 (Map 6) follow.

[[Page 3093]]



[[Page 3094]]

* * * * *

    Dated: January 14, 2004.
Craig Manson,
Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
[FR Doc. 04-1296 Filed 1-21-04; 8:45 am]